Rockies bullpen has cut down on walks, but relievers “still trying to find their footing” – The Denver Post

Rockies manager Bud Black departed Scottsdale, Ariz., with plenty of optimism about his ballclub. That’s just who he is.

But Black also carried a big bag of worry when spring training ended and the real season began. His apprehension stemmed from far too many walks from Rockies relievers.

“What was a little concerning to me was that a lot of the guys didn’t have great springs,” Black said Wednesday before the Rockies played the Giants at San Francisco. “I’ve seen many, many times over the years where the bell rings and the guys turn it on and pitch well.

“That wasn’t the case this year. They sort of carried their spring training performances into the regular season. So the thing that I brought to their attention was just that. That we can’t continue this trend.”

Black said that the bullpen, as a whole, has begun to turn things around.

The walks have been reduced considerably. From April 1-18, the bullpen issued 27 walks over 54 1/3 innings, an average of 4.47 walks per nine innings. Since April 19, relievers were averaging only 2.03 walks per nine (six walks over the last 26 2/3 innings).

Veteran right-hander Mychal Givens, who had a rough start but has pitched well lately, believes the Rockies’ bullpen shows a lot of promise, despite a 5.00 ERA that is the third-highest in the National League.

“That’s the life of being in a bullpen, you’re going to have your ups and downs,” said Givens, who owns a 2.70 ERA and has held opponents scoreless in eight of his 10 appearances. “This is a big, long year and it’s really early. And we’re picking each other up and I think we are (accountable) this year and trying to succeed as a group.”

Still, some bullpen numbers aren’t great. The batting average against is .277 (highest in the NL), and the WHIP is 1.53 (also the highest). Rockies relievers are averaging 8.78 strikeouts per nine innings, ranking 13th (only Washington’s 8.66 and Miami’s 8.64 come in lower).

Asked if the bullpen was “a work in progress,” Black steered away from that term, choosing instead to say: “A number of guys are trying to find their footing. I think we have seen pretty consistent work from a couple of guys, but the other guys are trying to be more consistent.”

Black defines consistent as “stringing together seven or eight outings of scoreless innings or limiting damage. That’s what I’m looking for.”

In the early going, right-hander Robert Stephenson has been Colorado’s most dependable reliever and that’s bringing him some late-game innings. Stephenson owned a 2.53 ERA entering Wednesday’s game and had allowed only one walk over 10 2/3 innings. He was unscored upon in six of his team-leading 11 appearances.

“When you are out in the bullpen it’s always going to be about who’s doing well at whatever time,” said Stephenson, who was acquired as part of the Jeff Hoffman trade with Cincinnati. “Earning the trust of the manager is the key to being out there and having him put you in situations that he feels comfortable with.

“I felt like going into the season, I knew I was going to be in middle relief, but obviously with opportunity, if things went well, I knew I would be working in higher-leverage situations, which is exactly what I wanted.”

Yes, it’s a no-no. Arizona Diamondbacks veteran lefty Madison Bumgarner threw seven hitless innings against Atlanta on Sunday. However, because the game was part of a doubleheader and only spanned seven innings, Bumgarner’s start does not officially count as a no-hitter.a

Black, a big-league pitcher for 15 seasons, believes it should count.

“There’s a part of me that thinks that it should stand as a no-hitter, with maybe some sort of note by it,” Black said. “Maybe with an asterisk that says, ‘seven-inning game,’ but it still qualifies as a no-hitter.”

So why is Major League Baseball not recognizing “MadBum’s” no-no? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, MLB’s official statistician, neither a team nor an individual pitcher will be credited with a no-hitter in a scheduled seven-inning game of a doubleheader — unless that game goes into extra innings. If the game extends to at least nine innings and that pitcher has still not allowed a hit, then it goes down as an official no-hitter.

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