Rockies not uneasy about long layoff
Hurdle, Apodaca make plan to combat eight-day downtime
DENVER -- Don't expect Rockies manager Clint Hurdle to bellyache about the downtime between his team wrapping up the National League Championship Series on Monday night and the start of the World Series on Oct. 24.
Before the team worked out at Coors Field on Wednesday afternoon, Hurdle detailed his plan for keeping sharp during a record eight-day layoff before the Fall Classic. There are challenges, but Hurdle didn't exactly look at it as a chore.
"It's groundbreaking," Hurdle deadpanned when asked about his strategy.
"The only other option that I mentioned to somebody else that is much smarter than me is we could have lost a couple more games," Hurdle said. "We could have gotten on a plane, we could've made another flight.
"That would have really cut down on this downtime, and maybe put us in a position where we could've had four months of downtime."
So how does one fill the rest of the time? Here's the schedule, after Wednesday's workout of batting practice and fielding, with pitchers working bullpen sessions with the option of throwing breaking pitches:
Thursday -- Off.
Friday -- The Rockies will play a simulated game of a minimum of four innings, with the hitters facing pitchers who are throwing at full speed. The coaches will implement situational defense and pitchers will work against the running game.
Pitching coach Bob Apodaca said left-hander Jeff Francis, who has been dominant in the postseason (2-0, 2.13 ERA in two starts) and is likely to start Game 1, is scheduled to pitch on Friday.
Saturday -- They will play a simulated game of at least seven innings. Hitters will actually swing, rather than just look at pitches as they may be asked to Friday, and run out of the batter's box.
"The more we put into it, the more we get out of it," Hurdle said.
Sunday -- Bad weather is forecast, but the Rockies are looking at a simulated game of at least 7 1/2 innings. Fielders will make plays, but there will be no baserunning.
Monday -- The club will have its regular batting practice/pregame fielding session, and then fly to the city of the American League champion.
Last year, the Tigers entered the World Series as heavy favorites, but after a six-day layoff, they lost to the Cardinals in five games. Hurdle is aware of that, but he puts it in perspective.
"I've already had six or seven people bring to my attention that the Tigers had a long layoff last year and didn't play very well," Hurdle said. "And I just kind of shared with them that there have been 10 teams that have had layoffs of five days or more, and seven of them have actually won the World Series.
"So if you look for good, you'll find good. If you look for bad, you'll find bad."
The biggest concern is pitching, where there needs to be a balance between getting rest and staying sharp.
"I wish I could say I've been planning this for 26 years," Apodaca said. "I wish I could say I've dusted it off. This is my first experience with playoff baseball. Just knowing that hitters can lose that little bit of edge with this amount of time off, but pitchers can as well.
"You can't replenish that with just throwing to a catcher. Your mind has to remain sharp."
The relievers face every bit the challenge the starters do, but efforts to control the workload have kept the bullpen healthy thus far. Just one reliever has dealt with physical issues, as right-hander Jorge Julio suffered stiffness near his neck in the final days of the regular season, but he's a candidate to return for the World Series.
"[The bullpen's health is] the result of really the communication of needed rest when they needed rest and watching their pitch counts," Apodaca said. "How many times [do] they get up without getting into the ballgame? We keep track of all that."
Reliever Brian Fuentes said how the bullpen will react to the extra time is a great unknown.
"Most relievers when you're tired, usually two days off is the most you get -- even if you pitch two innings, you get two days off and you're ready to go again," Fuentes said. "We have a very quick charge time.
"If we had to play another three games [to get to the Series], we'd have been fine. But we didn't. So we're going to take the rest, try to prepare our bodies the best we can and try to get ready for the next one."
One way players can make the best of the situation is by watching the Indians-Red Sox American League Championship Series. That's catcher Yorvit Torrealba's strategy.
"I watched the last few innings of [Game 3], kind of as a fan, but I also started thinking about the hitters for both teams, how to attack them," Torrealba said.
However, there is the possibility that the information could get to be too much. Francis has an analytical mind that makes watching games less enjoyable. So rather than stress himself out trying to figure out two complete teams, Francis said, "I haven't watched."
He and the Rockies will get to know their opponent in good time.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.