Embree's role goes beyond mound
Veteran lefty passing on wisdom to younger Rockies
PHOENIX -- Rockies left-handed pitcher Alan Embree brings with him the knowledge that comes from being in the Majors since 1992. Unless something unforeseen happens, the Rockies will be the 10th team he's pitched for during the regular season.The Rockies signed Embree to a one-year, $2.25 million contract this offseason to provide bullpen leadership. For Embree, that means gaining knowledge as he is spreading it.
"Right now, it's getting to know players, watching them," Embree said. "I watch extra innings and talk to them. A lot of guys tend to wait to be talked to. I'll be in the outfield and approach them, see how they're doing. Then questions come up about baseball."I've seen a lot of it, so much more than they've seen." Embree, 39, teaches every time he pitches. On Tuesday afternoon, his clean inning with one strikeout in the Rockies' 8-6 loss to the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park was a lesson in self-evaluation. He pitched poorly in his last spring outing, giving up five runs (one earned) on two hits with a rushed delivery against the Angels on Friday. "I think that I'm a pretty decent self-evaluator," Embree said. "I think you can have those games where you can get them out with absolutely nothing -- horrible location. You have to be able to sit back and go, 'I got really lucky. I have to make a switch.' "Then, you just tell yourself to go back to basics. The quicker you can make that adjustment, the better off you are." Embree's experience in many bullpen roles -- he is not merely a left-on-left specialist -- and his manner around other players attracted Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. "There is a saying I heard from my grandpa: 'There's no such thing as an old fool,'" Hurdle said. "You don't get to be old by being a fool. You don't pitch in the big leagues as long as he has without having some characteristics that have quality to them." Rockies right-handed reliever Huston Street was a teammate of Embree's for the last two seasons with the Athletics. Embree took over for an injured Street at closer in 2007 and earned 17 saves. He also talked to Street about resting his hip flexor injury last season. "I got 'Father Embree' with me," Street said. "He's been a huge help. There are little things that he drops in my ear from time to time, 'Hey, why don't you back off?' because he's got parts of 17 seasons under his belt. It would be foolish for me not to take his advice, because he's still going strong." The Rockies have felt for years that Embree would be a good fit on a roster heavily populated with players who have never been in another organization. It nearly happened in 2007. His interest in the Rockies goes way back. In 1995, Embree pitched for the Indians, who lost in the World Series to the Braves. But that was the year the Rockies made the playoffs in their third season of play. Embree said the Indians began paying attention to the Rockies late in that season as a possible World Series opponent. Embree said he admired key players such as Walt Weiss, Larry Walker, Dante Bichette and Vinny Castilla, and liked then-manager Don Baylor, who returned this season as hitting coach. He also respected Hurdle and the recent Rockies as an opponent. "I think I was pheasant hunting in The Dalles, Oregon, and I talked to Clint on the phone -- it just didn't work out, for whatever reason," Embree said. "This is a team that I've actually tried to play with for a few different years, and for contract reasons and other reasons, it didn't turn out. So I've always liked it since the expansion. "There's something about Colorado that draws me out there. I'm an outdoors person, so I fit right into that."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.