Betancourt, Escalona getting closer to returning
Rockies' bullpen strategy altered with pair of relievers out of action
WASHINGTON -- A bullpen strategy that was straightforward and often successful for Rockies manager Walt Weiss has become jumbled because of injuries to relief pitchers Rafael Betancourt and Edgmer Escalona.
Friday night's 2-1 loss to the Nationals illustrated the point. After Tyler Chatwood threw 97 pitches to take the Rockies through the sixth inning tied at 1, a normal bullpen would have meant right-hander Matt Belisle, or Escalona in some cases, were available for the seventh, Belisle and left-hander Rex Brothers for the eighth and Betancourt for the ninth.
Instead, the Rockies went to Manuel Corpas, who hasn't pitched badly, but also hasn't established his role. Corpas (2.00 ERA) gave up just one hit, but it was an Ian Desmond game-winning homer on his third pitch.
Weiss' comfort level will rise soon. Betancourt and Escalona will face hitters in Boston next week, and could return shortly thereafter. Betancourt does not want to spend time in the Minors on a rehab assignment, so he could be back Thursday or Friday. Weiss said the Rockies haven't determined if either Betancourt or Escalona will have a Minor League assignment. Escalona's relative lack of Major League experience, though, may make rehab a more prudent option.
Either way, Weiss will be in position soon to use the bullpen the way he wants.
"It makes it tough when you lose that closer and a guy like Escalona, who was throwing well -- he's more suited for that long role -- but there was enough power that if you needed him to throw the pitch in the seventh or the eighth, he could do that," Weiss said. "They're a couple valuable guys that we're missing right now.
"Your hands are a little tied with Rex when he pitches in that closer's role. There may be a situation late in the game when you'd love to have him, but when you're using him as a closer, you can't fire him earlier in the game."
Belisle gets breather, ready to resume duties
WASHINGTON -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss didn't go to veteran right-handed reliever Matt Belisle with Friday night's game -- an eventual 2-1 loss to the Nationals -- tied in the seventh inning, but it was more a show of confidence than a lack thereof.
Three of Belisle's last four games have resulted in his giving up two runs. But Weiss hoped Manuel Corpas would hold the Nationals, the Rockies would gain the lead and he could go to Belisle to protect it in the eighth.
Belisle (4-4, 3.86 ERA in 34 games) has been working on his consistency since his last outing, a 2-0 loss to the Jays on Monday. Belisle's 264 appearances since 2010 are the most of any pitcher, and any time he goes through a period of struggle, questions about wear arise.
"Matty's ready to go," Weiss said. "We've been able to get him a little rest here and that's going to help. But I always like Matt in the game, because of the way he competes. He wants the ball. He wants to be in the game in those tough situations. If we face that situation today, he'll be out there with the ball trying to preserve the lead and get the ball to Rex [Brothers, the closer]."
Success vs. Strasburg boosts Rutledge's confidence
WASHINGTON -- It didn't seem Friday was a good night for second baseman Josh Rutledge to be in the starting lineup.
Rutledge was 1-for-22 since being recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs, and he was facing Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg, who clearly has regained his groove since a stint on the 15-day disabled list with a lat issue. All Rutledge did was knock two hits, plus reach on a hit batsman.
The season started with Rutledge as the regular second baseman, but the Rockies sent him down in late May because they thought he was putting too much pressure on himself. A 1-for-22 tested his ability to keep results in perspective.
"You can prepare all you want, but in the end, you can only control what you can," Rutledge said. "If you're having some at-bats where you're hitting the ball hard and it's not finding holes, you have to trust that it's going to turn around and just stick with it.
"Last night was something to build on. Strasburg is one of those guys who can take control of the game. To have success against a pitcher like that definitely boosts your confidence."
Pomeranz finding consistency at Triple-A
WASHINGTON -- Rockies left-handed pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz appears to be grasping the consistency he was sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs to find.
Pomeranz limited Tacoma to two runs and five hits in seven innings Friday night in a home victory over Tacoma. That performance came on the heels of 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a victory over Las Vegas in his previous start.
The two solid starts break a pattern of dominant performances in the first three or four innings, followed by perplexing troubles. The new-found staying power makes Pomeranz a viable candidate for a big league callup at some point.
Lefty reliever Takahashi acquired from Cubs
WASHINGTON -- The Rockies added to their bullpen depth by acquiring left-handed reliever Hisanori Takahashi from the Cubs for a player to be named or cash considerations, the club announced Saturday.
Takahashi, 38, is under a Minor League contract and has been assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Takahashi has appeared in the Majors in each of the last four seasons with the Mets, Angels, Pirates and Cubs, and is a combined 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA in 168 games, including 12 starts his rookie year. He began the season with three games with the Cubs, then was sent to Triple-A Iowa, where he went 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 27 1/3 innings over 20 games.
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.