Herges out to regain confidence
Key reliever for Rockies in '07 loses setup role this season
DENVER -- Flash back to the Rockies' historic run to the World Series last season, and a number of enduring moments stick out: Matt Holliday's face-diving slide against the Padres; Kaz Matsui's go-ahead grand slam against the Phillies; any number of the gutsy performances by the Rockies' young starting pitchers.
Right-handed reliever Matt Herges also was an indispensable part of the Rockies' postseason success as a setup man for closer Manuel Corpas. Herges' confidence was nearly palpable as he tossed seven shutout innings in seven appearances and earned the National League Championship Series-clinching win against the D-backs.
Herges, 38, was on a roll again early this season, boasting a 1.93 ERA until May 14. But he couldn't hold a late lead in his next outing, beginning a 1-3 slump with three blown saves and a 7.20 ERA over 10 appearances. After the last of those, a blown lead against the White Sox on June 13, manager Clint Hurdle removed Herges from his setup role.
Suddenly, Herges was questioning himself.
"A lot of it, when you're struggling, is mental; it's between your ears," Herges said. "So that's something that I needed to deal with."
Herges gave up three hits and two earned runs in Monday night's 7-1 loss to the Braves, but took a positive turn Friday night against the Mets.
Herges worked around a one-out hit by Carlos Delgado to pitch a scoreless ninth in mop-up duty during the Rockies' 7-2 loss. Sure, he'd rather be out there protecting a one-run lead, but after sitting out three straight games, Herges was happy just to be on the mound again.
"It feels great any time the manager gives you the ball," he said. "Every day you hope you get it, but it doesn't work out that way. So I was thrilled to death."
Herges said he spent extra time between outings working to refine his pitching motion with bullpen coach Rick Matthews. Hurdle was impressed with the latest results.
"He was very efficient [Friday]," Hurdle said. "He threw one bad pitch, but after that, I thought his command was better. There was better finish to his pitches, so that's something for him to build a positive off of, definitely."
Regardless of how Herges performs, it might be a while before he regains his setup role. The Rockies have several other right-handed pitchers they want to see on the mound late in games, including Luis Vizcaino, Jason Grilli, Ryan Speier and the recently improved Corpas.
That doesn't bother Herges. Right now, he just wants to pitch with the same confidence he had last fall.
"Confidence is everything, and when you get hit around, human nature is your confidence takes a hit, too," he said. "You've got to either be numb to it or convince yourself to have confidence somehow. And usually confidence comes when you get people out consistently. Hopefully [Friday was] the start of that for me."
Jeff Birnbaum is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.