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WC push gives Rox novel September strategy

Roster decisions framed by wins and losses, not prospects' goals for next year
MLB.com

DENVER -- The Rockies begin September as contenders, holding the second National League Wild Card spot, and their strategy when rosters expand on Friday will be different than their approach in recent years.

Contending teams can specialize in certain aspects, manager Bud Black said. Giving more time to left-handed specialists, pinch-runners and defensive standouts are among the options. That's a different strategy than the one used by most rebuilding teams, which may bring up players who hope to make a strong impression for the next season.

DENVER -- The Rockies begin September as contenders, holding the second National League Wild Card spot, and their strategy when rosters expand on Friday will be different than their approach in recent years.

Contending teams can specialize in certain aspects, manager Bud Black said. Giving more time to left-handed specialists, pinch-runners and defensive standouts are among the options. That's a different strategy than the one used by most rebuilding teams, which may bring up players who hope to make a strong impression for the next season.

• Up-to-the-minute Wild Card standings

"Both in contention or not contending, you just don't want to bring guys up [without] planning on using them," said Black, who has been part of contending and rebuilding teams in his 38 years as a player, coach and manager. "In our case, we're going to bring up guys that we think can help us win games."

Though the Rockies have played well all season, the franchise has appeared in the postseason just three times in 25 seasons, and it last played meaningful September baseball in 2010. One game out of first place on Sept. 19, 2010, Colorado lost 13 of its final 14 games to miss the postseason.

Video: COL@KC: CarGo lays out to make a great diving snag

Carlos Gonzalez, who is in his ninth season with the Rockies, said he's excited to be contending again. Gonzalez strives to recapture the intensity of the 2009 postseason, when Colorado won the NL Wild Card and played Philadelphia in the NL Division Series.

"It's way different than the past, when you play in September and you're already out," Gonzalez said. "When you're out, you're just trying new players. … [This year], whoever comes from the Minor Leagues, they don't need to carry the team; all they need to do is be helpful whenever they get the opportunity to play.

"[Contending] takes a lot more out of you," Gonzalez added. "Normally, during the regular season, you go in the tunnel and watch your at-bats or whatever, but when you're playing great games, you don't want to miss one pitch."

September roster flexibility isn't popular among every player. Reliever Pat Neshek, a member of postseason teams from 2012-15, said that competing against rebuilding teams can be cumbersome.

Video: LAD@STL Gm4: Neshek induces grounder to cap 1-2-3 8th

From a pitching standpoint, it can be difficult to study a new surge of scouting reports on hitters who were called up from the Minors. Neshek suggested a limit of six or seven callups, pointing to a 2012 series with the Athletics in which he faced a Mariners team that used all 40 roster spots.

"There were 22 hitters to go over, and [the coaches] just gave up," Neshek said. "We did our report, and then there were, like, nine other guys that weren't even in the lineup. To me, it's just a different game of baseball."

Rosters aren't all that change in September, though. With the potential for October baseball right around the corner, Black expects the atmosphere around Coors Field to be electric.

"It's the feeling you want," Black said. "Every pitch becomes critical, especially as you get deeper into September. That's when it's fun."

Max Gelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver.

Colorado Rockies