Rockies' rested bullpen performs well vs. Padres
With closer Ottavino out with soreness, manager Weiss feels comfortable turning to Axford
DENVER -- When the Rockies' bullpen has enough rest, manager Walt Weiss has enough talent to give one of his finest relievers a day off.
Before Thursday's finale of a four-game set with the Padres, closer Adam Ottavino informed Weiss he was dealing with slight soreness in his right triceps. Weiss simply turned to John Axford, who fanned two in the ninth to preserve a 2-1 victory.
It was Axford's second appearance since being activated Wednesday. He has been away from the team tending to his 2 1/2-year-old son as he recovers from being bitten by a rattlesnake during Spring Training. After breezing through the eighth in Wednesday night's 5-4 victory, Axford walked one but had little trouble otherwise in the ninth Thursday. Thursday's save was the 118th of Axford's career. He led the National League with 46 in 2011.
"I felt pretty relaxed, similar to how I felt yesterday and even Milwaukee [a 10th-inning save on April 8]," Axford said. "That's something I've been focusing on, making sure my nerves don't get the best of me and trying not to overthrow.
"That walk [with one out to Yonder Alonso] was when I did overthrow. I was keeping the ball down, but I was cutting it. I realized I needed to stay through the ball better, and I did that with the last two hitters."
One problem during a recent five-game losing streak was bullpen fatigue, mainly because pitchers were leaving games early. But the Rockies have won two straight with just enough length from starters Kyle Kendrick (seven innings Wednesday) and Jordan Lyles (6 2/3 innings Thursday).
The Kendrick start allowed Ottavino to feel confident informing Weiss of the soreness, which, he said, "is not something I haven't had before."
Ottavino pitched in the Monday and Wednesday game and was up in the bullpen "a little bit … I didn't really do all that much, to be fair" on Tuesday. Managers often look to give a reliever -- even a closer -- a day to rest after three straight days of activity, especially early. Ottavino received treatment Thursday and doesn't expect the issue to linger.
Before the ninth, Scott Oberg replaced Lyles and fanned Justin Upton with two on to end the seventh, and Rafael Betancourt pitched around a Cory Spangenberg two-out double in the eighth.
"We had a lot of guys rested," Ottavino said. "Everybody performed really well out of the 'pen today."