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Morales giving Rockies valuable work out of bullpen

DENVER -- Franklin Morales has become the Rockies' utility reliever.

It's not what Morales wants to do. But he is not complaining about his bullpen duties.

And neither are the Rockies.

"He may not agree with our decision, but he's going to do whatever helps the team, and that's [pitching] out of the bullpen," said pitching coach Jim Wright. "He hasn't pouted one bit."

On Saturday, Morales was even smiling. Called on in the ninth inning of a tie game with two out and two on, he got Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez on a chopper back to the mound, and then pitched a scoreless 10th, setting up Brandon Barnes' walk-off triple with two out in the bottom of the inning in Colorado's 5-4 win.

Talk about relief.

The Rockies put an end to an eight-game losing streak, and Morales put an end to a recent run of struggles by a bullpen which has been worn down by a rotation that has pitched the fewest innings of any in the National League.

Until this week, Morales was a part of that rotation. He also was a part of the reason the bullpen was being asked to carry such a heavy load. Morales made six starts in May. He was 0-3 with a 7.59 ERA. Morales worked more than six innings only once. That's why Colorado decided to put him back in the bullpen and call up highly regarded Eddie Butler.

"Frankie helps us in so many ways out of the bullpen," said Wright. "He's a long guy, he's a situational guy, and he can close out a game. "

Saturday was a perfect example of the relief Morales brings the Rockies' bullpen.

"We had a couple guys down, so he played a huge role in what happened," said manager Walt Weiss. "He's so versatile. That's what is so appealing about Frankie."

Morales provides something the Rockies were lacking in their bullpen. They like the abilities of their relievers, but they are pretty much one-inning guys. That's fine with a rotation like the Dodgers or the Giants have. It's a problem, though, for a team like Colorado.

The Rockies have had a starting pitcher work more than six innings in only 12 of their 61 games. And the lack of durability has become a real issue since Jordan Lyles' eight-inning effort in a 6-2 victory against Texas on May 5. Colorado was 20-14 at the time, second place in the NL West, two games out of first.

Saturday was only the Rockies' ninth win in 27 games since then. They have fallen into third place in the division and are 11 games behind the first-place Giants, who played Saturday night. Only once in those 27 games has a starting pitcher worked more than six innings, and 14 times the starter has been gone before the end of the sixth inning.

Adam Ottavino, who made his 31st appearance on Saturday, and Rex Brothers, who appeared in his 30th game, rank among the top five in the NL in appearances, and Tommy Kahnle, in 24 appearances, has worked 32 innings, third in the NL.

Enter Morales. He's made two appearances since moving into the bullpen. Morales got a mid-game call on Wednesday against Arizona, working a scoreless fifth and sixth, giving the Rockies a chance to rally from a 4-0 deficit to a 4-4 tie. Colorado, however, lost the game, 16-8.

After Cory Dickerson singled home a game-tying run in the seventh Saturday, Morales came on in the ninth and gave the Rockies the chance to win.

"This was a big game for us," said Morales. "We had lost eight in a row, and now we have a win. Now we can turn it around. That happened to me. I had a bad stretch [in the rotation], and now I am doing my job. We have a bad stretch, and now we can starting winning."

And Morales does appear to be turning things around in his brief return to a relief role. He has become more aggressive.

"I feel good right now," Morales said. "I still want to be a starter, but I have to pitch well for that to happen. Right now, I am a reliever, and I want to do a good job and help the team every time I pitch. That's the most important thing, the team winning."

On Saturday, that's exactly what Morales did. He did his job, and the Rockies won.

Tracy Ringolsby is a reporter for
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