Young staff key for resurgent Rockies

Colorado attempting to make postseason for fourth time in franchise history

August 4th, 2016

DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies keep getting lost in the shuffle.

With the soap operas like this week's visit by the Dodgers, amid all the hoopla over the team's decision to ship to Triple-A with no assurances of a return, or the pending arrival of and his quest for 3,000 hits with a weekend visit by the Marlins to Coors Field, the country can be excused for overlooking the Rockies.

That, however, is about to change. If Colorado keeps playing like it has recently, it's going to be near impossible to ignore the Rockies.

Shoot, not only is Colorado winning -- and sneaking back into the postseason picture -- it is doing it with one of the most effective -- and youngest -- starting rotations.

That's right: One of the most effective -- and youngest -- starting rotations.

The 12-2 victory against the Dodgers on Wednesday night at Coors Field improved the Rockies' record since the All-Star break to 14-5, the best in the Majors. Yes, hit two more home runs, and moved into a tie with injured teammate for the National League home run lead at 27, and homered, too.

But that's not news. Colorado's offense has carried the moniker Blake Street Bombers off and on since the opening of Coors Field in 1995.

What's different about these Rockies from any in the past is this club actually has a rotation that is getting the attention of the opposition, and it's young, with reason to believe it will get better.

Rookie left-hander rebounded from giving up a two-run home run to , the third batter of the game, to shut out Los Angeles over the rest of his seven-inning effort, allowing Colorado to climb above .500 (54-53) this late in a season for only the sixth time in the franchise's history and the first time since 2010.

What's more, the Rockies are only three games back of the second NL Wild Card spot, and they close out a series against the Dodgers, who are five games ahead of them for the top Wild Card spot, on Thursday.

Now none of this means Colorado is assured of a postseason trip for only the fourth time since the franchise came into existence in 1993, but it does give the club reason for hope, because it seems to finally be developing pitchers with no fear of altitude.

The Rockies saw their starters put together a franchise single-month record in July with 20 quality starts, and during the post-All-Star-break hot streak, Colorado's rotation ranks No. 1 in baseball with a 12-2 record, is third in the NL with a 3.24 ERA, and is second in the NL with 114 innings pitched.

And this with five starters in which , 35, is the only one over 27. Anderson, who is 4-0 in his past five starts, is 26, a year younger than , who is 5-1 in his past 10 starts in which the Rockies are 8-2. He's nearly the same age as , who came back from missing nearly two years with Tommy John surgery to lead the team with 10 victories. And two years older than , who has won his past three starts, is 8-4 for the season, and has allowed one run in 12 innings his past two starts at Coors Field.

Oh, and four of their top nine prospects are pitchers who are at the Double-A or Triple-A level this year, and most likely capable of stepping into the rotation sometime soon.

Surprised? Don't be.

In the past two years, Colorado has undergone a major overhaul of its pitching philosophy, starting with the departure of Bill Geivett, who had created a special assistant role in which he had an office in the clubhouse.

But as well as putting himself in the middle of manager Walt Weiss' chores, Geivett also kept his hand in the Minor League system, where such mandates as forbidding pitchers to throw curveballs because they don't break as well at altitude helped create a fear of Coors Field among the organization's young pitchers.

With Mark Wiley finally given autonomy to oversee the pitching in the Minor Leagues, and the hiring of pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes, whose calling card in a big league career that included five seasons with the Rockies was a big-time breaking ball, Colorado is creating an aggressive mindset at Coors Field.

Not only was Bettis told to regain a curveball that has a speed differential of more than 20 mph from his fastball, but the Rockies added a curveball to the repertoire of both Gray and Chatwood, in part because it creates less stress on the elbow and shoulder, but also because it is an offspeed pitch with breaking motion.

It has taken a while for the new mentality to set in. Based off the recent results, however, it was worth the wait.