Inbox: How will Black handle pitchers early?

July 3rd, 2020

DENVER -- Nice to be talking baseball again, isn’t it?

Hypothetically, is dominating one of the first regular-season games, but he’s coming off just a three-week summer camp. What does manager Bud Black do?

That’s one scenario discussed ahead of the Rockies' Summer Camp and the start of the regular season later this month. And it’s part of the latest Rockies Inbox:

What is your guess for the rotation or piggybacking pitchers to start the season? Will Black consider a six-man rotation?
-- @COLsportsguy

I asked Black about this during his Zoom conference this week. We are still awaiting a schedule, which would better help determine how the beginning of the season will go, in terms of days off.

“Generally speaking, a five-man rotation with some guys who have length who can come in behind them,” the manager said. “There will be a number of pitchers, depending if we keep 15 or 16, who are very capable of going a couple of innings.

“The first week of games or first 10 games, it’s going to look like the early games of Spring Training where there are a number of pitchers being used. It’ll all be pitch count predicated. We’ll know where we are when we get to late July when the season starts, as far as what guys are able to do, how they get through [Summer Camp], if they get through healthy, if they made certain markers as far as pitch counts.”

Of course, when games begin, it won’t be the carefree days of Spring Training, rather a 60-game sprint with postseason spots on the line.

“The real trick is about the pitching,” Black said. “If hypothetically, you have Márquez, who’s thrown the ball great and maybe his pitch count is a bit elevated and maybe he’s at three or four innings and you wish he could go more because he is dealing, you might have to take him out just because we weren’t able to get him to a certain pitch count in this three-week period.

“The pitching will be highly monitored, but we also know that every game is important. So playing the hot hand out of the bullpen could come into play.”

With the Matt Kemp signing and all the talk of declining and/or poor defense of right fielder Charlie Blackmon and first baseman Daniel Murphy, how does the platooning look over a short season?
-- @sam_kissel

Black likely will be rotating his designated hitters, and there are plenty of options.

The right-handed hitting Kemp is on a Minor League contract. If he’s the Kemp of 2018, when he was a Dodgers All-Star, he can be in the picture at DH and left field (on the road more than at home). The left-handed hitting Murphy was hampered by a finger injury last season and didn’t move well defensively. But in the original spring camp this year, Murphy hit .292 and looked to be heading for a bounce-back season.

Could this be a DH platoon?

As for Blackmon, it would be nice to give him an occasional break but keep his bat in the lineup. However, the “Blackmon is a poor defender” line is somewhat overblown.

Sports Info Solutions’ metrics show Rockies players being poorer in Coors’ spacious outfield than on the road. As a group last season, for example, they finished with 7.0 plays made above average. At home, they were minus-50.4. Not one outfielder finished with a positive number. Rethinking positioning, something the team toyed with in the original Spring Training, could help, but Coors is simply a tough outfield to play.

Blackmon, by the way, was plus 2.7 plays made above average on the road, and minus-10.7 at home.

Will any draft picks be added to the 60-man player pool?
-- @RantsRockies

I am guessing not, but don’t hold me to that. One reason the Rockies left some spots open is no one knows how many players they may have to replace, given injuries and the current pandemic. You would hope they don’t go through 60 players in 60 games, but who knows?

If they are going to add players who aren’t going to make it to the Majors this year, it may make sense to give those spots to prospects who are already in the system. Corner infielder Colton Welker, third baseman Ryan Vilade and last year’s top pick, first baseman Michael Toglia. But the Rockies have made no announcements about their plans.