DENVER -- Rockies closer Wade Davis' fastball movement was an unpleasant surprise, and he had to get to the bottom of it.
"Probably a month and a half ago, I was cutting the fastball a lot, especially here [at Coors Field], and I wasn't sure why," Davis said. "I was getting a lot of late right-to-left movement that I had never seen before. That was kind of weird."
Davis started from the ground -- from his feet at the onset of his motion -- and made corrections that gave him a stride and arm path. The improvement has been striking. He no longer looks like the pitcher who blew four saves, which is more than in any full season of his career, by mid-June.
"You break things down from the ground up whenever things are out of whack," Davis said. "Start with your feet. Start with your legs, your hips, your core, your front side -- all that is just part of the chain."
Since giving up four runs on two hits and four walks in a painful blown save and 13-12 loss at Texas on June 17, Davis has put up stingy and increasingly dominant numbers. In 11 games, he has posted a 1.64 ERA, held opponents to a .132 batting average and .412 OPS.
In his last four appearances going into Sunday against the Mariners (the Rockies didn't expect to use him, since he had appeared in three straight games), he has not yielded a baserunner, and he has struck out three of the 12 batters he has faced.
"It's a long season," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "There is going to be a little bit of variability. Wade has been pretty steady of late. The ball-strike ratio and the walks are still a little high in the big picture. Wade continues to tinker on the delivery and work on some things. He's a guy that's very in tune with his mechanics and how he feels. But he knows how to navigate through an inning."
Davis isn't done.
"I don't think you're ever right, I think you're always trying to figure something out," he said.
Davis has seen his average fastball velocity gradually decline -- 96.5 mph in 2015, 95.7 in 2016, 94.4 last season and 93.8 this year. Some of that is natural, as he is in his age 32 season, and he dealt with some elbow issues in 2015 with the Royals. But last year with the Cubs, when he converted 32-of-33 save chances, he noticed a slight crossfire enter his delivery. But this year, the first of a three-year, $52 million deal with the Rockies, results told him he had to correct.
Not only has he seen a recent spike in pitches above 94 mph -- but his cutter has become more effective. In a perfect ninth in Saturday's 4-1 victory over the Mariners, he used the cutter more because of the natural fatigue from pitching the two previous days. He picked a few pitches to hit 95, but in general, trusted that his improved mechanics would help his secondary pitches.
"Whenever you're able to slow things down, you can change speeds a lot easier, more comfortably," Davis said. "You can go in, go down and away, go back and forth a little bit more, instead of raring back and throwing a baseball."
Out of the break
Black has not announced the rotation for the second half, but the Rockies are expected to start righty German Marquez (8-8, 4.81 ERA) on Friday and lefty Kyle Freeland (8-6, 3.11) Saturday at Arizona. Righty Jon Gray (8-7, 5.44) and lefty Tyler Anderson (6-3, 3.76) are expected to be part of the plan, and righty Antonio Senzatela (3-2, 5.34) should be in the mix if the right middle finger blister that cost him Friday's start heals.
Righty Chad Bettis (5-1, 5.10), also on the disabled list with a right middle finger blister, is expected to throw a Minor League rehab game next weekend.
The Rockies recalled righty reliever Carlos Estevez (right elbow sprain) from the 60-day DL, then optioned him to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he has been pitching. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the Rockies outrighted righty Brooks Pounders to Albuquerque. Pounders was 0-1 with a 7.63 ERA before being optioned to Albuquerque on June 26.