DENVER -- Righty reliever Carlos Estévez gave the Rockies solid moments the last two games, both wins at Milwaukee. Estevez threw a three-pitch strikeout to Orlando Arcia to end the fifth, and he set up a game-turning rally Wednesday. He also had a four-pitch punch-out of Yasmani Grandal to quell a rally Thursday.
Estevez, 26, is being used in key situations with increasing frequency. He was used in close games four times during the Rockies’ 4-3 road trip. He didn’t give up a run, and although he appeared during an inning three times, only one inherited runner scored.
“Every reliever wants to be in that spot -- if they say they don’t, they are lying or I don’t know what they’re thinking,” Estevez said. “That’s the mentality you need to have. If they want you there, it’s a good thing.”
As the successes add up, Estevez provides mounting evidence that he can fit into the Rockies' plan of eventually turning over the bullpen to homegrown talent.
Righty Scott Oberg alternately had high and low moments from 2015-18 before breaking out the second half of last year, after a month-long option to Triple-A Albuquerque. Oberg has solidified the eighth inning this year.
Estevez could be next to overcome the peaks and valleys. He earned 11 saves as a rookie in 2016, bounced between the Majors and Minors the following year but ended up on the postseason roster, then didn’t throw a Major League pitch last season because of freak injuries -- a left oblique strain when he bent to pick up a ball in Spring Training, and a right elbow strain when he pushed to rise from the dugout bench while pitching at Albuquerque.
After being sent to Albuquerque to start this season, Estevez was recalled on April 2 and worked his way to important innings. Estevez, control-challenged at times in the past, has 20 strikeouts to five walks in 14 2/3 innings.
“Very seldom do you have somebody come up, especially from a bullpen standpoint, and just take off and dominate,” Rockies bullpen coach Darren Holmes said. “There are ebbs and flows. Get up, get sent back down and come back up over a course of usually two years or so, but it’ll all come together. That’s what it did for Oberg, and that’s what it’s doing for Carlos Estevez right now.”
Rockies manager Bud Black is seeing that some motion adjustments that the Rockies have suggested over the years, such as not being as exaggerated in his overhand delivery, have helped Estevez stay in the strike zone and increase his usability. Estevez has given up three home runs, but Black notes that some of it comes with being in the strike zone -- which is better than not.
“Velocity is up and the overall ball-strike ratio has been pretty good, so the walks have been down,” Black said. “The slider consistency has been there so far this year. Those are things that give us confidence in Carlos coming into games.”
Iannetta returns, Butera designated
Chris Iannetta returned and started Friday after being on the injured list since April 15 with a right lat strain. Veteran Drew Butera, who hit .176 with two doubles and a key walk in seven games, was designated for assignment in a corresponding move.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
Iannetta went 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and an RBI in three injury rehab games at Double-A Hartford. The best part of that placement was spending time with his children in Providence, R.I., where he makes his offseason home.
“I flew in Sunday and it’s only an hour and 20 minutes from the kids, so I went home and had dinner with them,” Iannetta said. “They were in school when I was playing. Then Wednesday, we had an early game -- a 10:30 a.m. Minor League game -- so I went home after that. Then I flew back to Denver yesterday.
“It was a happy accident. Anytime you can go see your kids is great.”
Murphy sits again
After a planned day off Thursday at Milwaukee, first baseman Daniel Murphy was held out of the lineup again Friday because of lower-back soreness. Murphy rolled over and rose slowly Wednesday after scoring on Nolan Arenado’s ninth-inning double during a 4-3 loss at Milwaukee.