DENVER -- Mark Wiley's long experience with pitching in the Majors has taught him what works, at Coors Field and everywhere else. Upon being announced on Monday as the Rockies' director of pitching operations -- a newly created role -- Wiley said that it's possible Colorado's pitchers might already have what it takes to succeed.The Rockies have been dealing with special pitching conditions, brought on by mile-high altitude, for 20 seasons. On some occasions they succeeded. But at other times, the line between altitude being a legitimate factor and an excuse has been blurry. In 2012, as the Rockies posted the worst season in their history, they relied on their own statistical research -- revealing a disturbing pattern of injuries or dips in effectiveness -- to try an avant garde four-man rotation with a tight pitch limit. Now they've hired Wiley, who has worked in the Rockies' front office as a trusted pitching advisor on two other occasions, to find ways for pitching to work. Wiley will oversee all things pitching, from what the Rockies seek in amateurs and professionals to development through the Minors to procedures at the Major League level. The Rockies are seeking a new manager, and Wiley will have a voice in the hiring of a pitching coach. Wiley joins a club that he believes has a high talent level and could have the necessary experience to win if pitchers injured last season come back healthy in 2013.
"They have a lot of guys that I like, guys with a lot of talent," Wiley said. "I think they can be good. If all of them are mentally tough enough, that's what we've got to find out."Wiley, 64, has long been connected with general manager Dan O'Dowd. Wiley worked as the Orioles' pitching coach in 1987, when O'Dowd was an assistant in player development and scouting for the club. Wiley served two stints as the Indians' pitching coach (1988 to 1991 and 1995 to 1998) while O'Dowd was a key member of the front office. Wiley also was the Rockies' senior director of player personnel in 2000, O'Dowd's first year as GM, and special assistant for player personnel in 2006 and 2007, when his voice was instrumental in building a pitching staff that took the team to the World Series in 2007. He also was pitching coach for the Marlins in 2008 and 2009 before moving to the team's front office. Wiley has an idea of the type of pitching style that can succeed but said that a one-size-fits-all policy would be a mistake. "I've never liked coaches that had a cookie-cutter approach, because how can you find a Dan Quisenberry or a Kent Tekulve if you do that?" he said. By season's end the Rockies had backed away from the four-man rotation but announced that a pitch count would exist in some form. Wiley will have much to do with setting such policy, but he said that the idea of controlling the workload or how many times pitchers face a lineup -- a key component of the Rockies' philosophy -- is not revolutionary. "A lot of teams do that, but the difference here was we had so many young pitchers at one time," Wiley said. "Some pitchers, you let them face a lineup a third time and don't have any concerns. But some others, you try to reduce that to give them a chance at success. "When I was with Cleveland, we had Orel Hershiser and Dennis Martinez closer to the end of their careers, and we usually didn't have them go more than five or six innings. It's something you do with pitchers at the very beginning of their careers or when they're much older." Wiley has begun talking to Doug Linton, the team's Minor League pitching coordinator, about policies that can be instituted throughout the Minor League system. In addition to being involved in the hiring of the pitching coach and discussing his thoughts with whomever is hired, he will have meetings with the Rockies on personnel matters going into the Winter Meetings and eventually gain a feeling for the pitchers themselves. The new program also will include exercises to build mental toughness, which Wiley believes is as important as any physical characteristic.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.