If these starts get any shorter, they’re going to have to come up with another name for them. Maybe mini-starts, in the spirit of miniskirts and minicomputers.
For example, the relief pitcher who started Friday’s game for the Rockies actually went deeper than the starter who began Saturday’s, although that’s not saying much.
The Rocks were already leading the National League in innings pitched by a bullpen, so they didn’t really need a freak injury to a starting pitcher one day after pitching a game by committee. But that’s what happened.
Juan Nicasio strained his left knee trying to field Elian Herrera’s single up the middle with two out in the second inning Saturday. He had to come out, leaving the bullpen to add 7 1/3 innings to the nine it pitched Friday and the league-leading 173 1/3 it had pitched through 51 games coming in. In fact, that total didn’t include Josh Outman’s 3 1/3 Friday, since he was technically a starter for a day.
“There it is and you’ve got to deal with it again,” manager Jim Tracy said. “It’s not something that you dwell a whole lot about. I think the dwelling part comes afterwards. You sit down at your desk and you start thinking about tomorrow already and where are things going to go and how will you handle it if it doesn’t present itself in the way that you want it to.
“But we’re hopeful that Alex White goes out there (Sunday) and pitches the best game he’s pitched since he put a Rockies uniform on, because I personally feel he’s getting closer to doing that. We’ll see what happens, but I’m very hopeful that we get a very solid start from Alex White tomorrow and he gives us a chance to win the series.”
The Rocks made pitching largely irrelevant by scoring 53 runs in the first five games of the current homestand, winning all five and pulling within seven games of .500. Saturday, the Dodgers’ Aaron Harang baffled them, giving up one run in six innings, so Nicasio’s short start doomed them.
Carlos Gonzalez, who had driven in 11 runs over his previous six games, came up with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, lifted a harmless foul pop fly to Herrera off the third base line and slammed his bat to the ground in disgust. When Michael Cuddyer followed with a ground ball to second, the Rocks’ best opportunity was gone in a game they ended up losing 6-2.
“It was just frustration of the moment,” said Gonzalez, who leads the Rocks in pretty much every offensive category. “It was a pitch out of the strike zone. Obviously I make a wrong swing. I should have taken that pitch and taken it to a deeper count and just wait for my pitch and when it shows up, put a good barrel on it. But I did the opposite thing in that situation.”
Friday, the Rocks won the series opener against the National League West leaders by pounding Dodgers pitching for 13 runs. But they pitched the entire game out of the bullpen after releasing 49-year-old Jamie Moyer earlier in the week. They used Outman, Carlos Torres, Adam Ottavino, Matt Belisle and Esmil Rogers.
Saturday, they sent Torres down and recalled Rex Brothers, which gave them one more fresh arm. When Nicasio departed, Tracy went to Josh Roenicke, Matt Reynolds, Brothers and Rogers again. Roenicke, Reynolds and Brothers each pitched at least two innings, so they are probably unavailable today, barring an emergency. The club would also probably like to avoid calling on Rogers, who has pitched two days in a row.
“You come in here tomorrow morning and you sit down with your pitching people and we try to sort out who’s available and who’s not available,” Tracy said. “You don’t like to have too many days like that, but tomorrow morning will be one of those mornings.”
Nicasio said he wants to make his next start, but Tracy said the club would know more about his condition Sunday. As Nicasio left the clubhouse Saturday, he was limping noticeably.
“Seeing Nicasio only pitching one inning is not going to help a lot,” CarGo said. “But injuries are a part of the game, so all we can do is just hope he can get better and just get him back soon.”
The Rocks can still take the series and make it six out of seven on the homestand by winning today. But after consecutive starts of 3 1/3 and 1 2/3 innings, they’ll need White to give them more than a mini-start.