Notes: Rockies shake up roster again
Speier, Keppel called from Triple-A; Tulowitzki takes a seat
DENVER -- In the midst of a critical season-opening stretch of 19 games within their division, the Rockies have found their momentum heading in the wrong direction. A series of untimely injuries this week have put their pitching depth to the test, and the Rockies were forced to make two more moves Saturday.
Reliever Ramon Ramirez was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 18, with a sprained right elbow. Further details on how or when the sprain occurred were not made available by the Rockies.
Ramirez last pitched Tuesday, earning the win with a scoreless eighth inning, yielding one hit and striking out one. Ramirez had not allowed a run in seven appearances spanning 5 2/3 innings this season, and his early success had given the Rockies the confidence to move him into the late-inning mix, counting on him in the seventh and eighth innings.
The Rockies also designated Matt Herges for assignment, two days after purchasing his contract from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Herges had given up three runs in three innings over two appearances for the Rockies, and with the recent burden on the bullpen, the Rockies needed to get a fresh arm up in his place.
"He's not going to be able to pitch for a couple days," Hurdle explained. "He threw the last day he was in Colorado Springs [on Wednesday], threw an inning here the next day [and] threw two more innings yesterday. He's down for two days.
"We're in a position here where, for whatever reason, if I lose a starter early or we play 13 innings, the mathematics don't work as far as covering the bullpen," Hurdle added. "Unfortunately, four of the last six games we've played, we've had two quality starts, two starts of three innings, one of four and one of five. That's a lot of innings out of the bullpen."
Reinforcements arrived in the persons of right-handers Ryan Speier and Bobby Keppel, both up from Triple-A. Keppel made two appearances, both starts, for Colorado Springs, posting an 0-1 record and a 4.22 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. He made his big-league debut with the Royals last season, going 0-4 with a 5.40 ERA in eight games, six of which were starts.
Speaking of Speier ... Speier had been closing games in Colorado Springs, earning two saves in four outings of one inning each, allowing three earned runs, but none in his last two appearances. Speier was with the Rockies in 2005, making 22 relief appearances, earning a 2-1 record with a 3.65 ERA. He missed all of 2006 after undergoing shoulder surgery in February of that year.
When Speier didn't make the big-league roster out of Spring Training, the biggest issue was his command, but he felt he made progress in Colorado Springs.
"My command has been a little bit of a question mark," Speier said. "It's just been from taking so much time off, getting the feel back, learning how to pitch with the adrenaline again and the nerves and everything else."
Another concern has been arm strength, as he plays his first full season after his surgery, but both Speier and Hurdle were confident he could pitch multiple innings if needed.
"My arm strength is fine," Speier said. "I actually got up five games in a row in the Springs. I didn't pitch in all of them, but I got up five days in a row and got hot four of them, and my arm held up great. I was feeling fine."
The opportunity to get his feet wet at Triple-A could be the running start Speier needs to make a smooth transition back into the Rockies bullpen. With Herges' return questionable, Byung-Hyun Kim on the DL and Taylor Buchholz moving to the rotation, the chance to pick up where he left off in 2005 and stick with the parent club is there for Speier.
"I think I can [stick]," Speier said. "If I pitch the way I'm capable, I don't see why not."
Slow down at short: After starting 16 of the first 17 games at shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki started Saturday's game on the bench, giving way to Clint Barmes. Barmes made his first start of the season, having opened the year in Triple-A Colorado Springs before being recalled Sunday when Kazuo Matsui went on the disabled list.
Barmes is 2-for-5 in his limited experience against Hensley, but Hurdle emphasized that Tulowitzki needed something of a wake-up call. He has hit in four of the six games since Barmes was called up, raising his average from .162 to .193, but after an 0-for-3 night with his team high 15th and 16th strikeouts Friday night, Hurdle decided to take action.
"I think it's time that Tulowitzki watched a little bit," Hurdle said. "Whether it's one night or more, we'll wait and see, but he just needs to slow down. Sometimes we give them an opportunity to slow down in the game, and when they can't do that, we definitely can slow them down when we take them out of the lineup, have them watch the game. A lot can be learned by watching from time to time."
Tulowitzki has been especially vulnerable to chasing high fastballs, and Hurdle thought he could benefit from paying particular attention to how other hitters handle the high heat, free from the single-minded focus players fall into when they're in the game.
"It's an adjustment he's going to have to make to be a successful hitter," Hurdle said. "There's only a handful of guys since this game's been played that can handle the ball up with success. Names like [Yogi] Berra, [Manny] Sanguillen, [Roberto] Clemente. You can probably be done on two hands and two feet."
On tap: Right-handed pitchers Jason Hirsh (1-1, 3.38 ERA) and Greg Maddux (1-1, 3.86 ERA) square off at 1:05 p.m. MT for a rematch of their April 6 contest in San Diego.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.