Speier making Rockies take notice
Righty reliever has tossed five scoreless innings this spring
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rockies right-handed reliever Ryan Speier is taking advantage of the opportunity that came with the injury to right-handed setup man Taylor Buchholz.
Speier threw two scoreless innings, giving up two hits but striking out three, in the Rockies' 14-7 victory over the Athletics on Tuesday. In four Cactus League appearances, Speier has pitched five scoreless innings, allowing two hits striking out four.
"I came into camp in pretty good shape -- arm-wise I felt pretty good, and I got my mechanics ironed out at the end of last year," Speier said. "This is a carryover from last September, when I was throwing the ball real well."
Called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs four times last season, Speier went 2-1 with a 4.06 ERA in 43 games in the Majors. When he was sent down, it had more to do with his having a Minor League option than performance. Speier, 29, is out of options, but he aspires to more than just being on the roster.
Speier was a notable closer in the Minors. He earned the Minor League Rolaids Relief Man Award in 2004 at Double-A Tulsa and led the Pacific Coast League with 33 saves in 2007. Interestingly, he doesn't have a regular-season save in the Majors, but he earned one in Game 2 of the 2007 National League Championship Series by pitching a spotless 11th inning with one strikeout in a 3-2 victory over the D-backs.
The ninth inning isn't available at this point, but Speier wants to pitch as late as possible. Manuel Corpas and Huston Street are two right-handed closer types, and lefty Alan Embree figures to work in the late innings. With Buchholz down, Speier could wind up pitching the seventh or eighth inning.
"Everyone wants to be in the game when the game is on the line," Speier said. "I kind of got my shot last year, here and there with the game on the line, when the bullpen was a little thin. An opportunity is an opportunity, and I'm taking them whenever they come."
In his second inning of work Tuesday, Speier gave up a leadoff single to Matt Holliday and threw a wild pitch to move Holliday to second. Speier responded by striking out three straight left-handed hitters by mixing his fastball, slider and changeup.
"He's had as much focus and discipline in his work and game activity as anybody here in camp, position player or pitcher," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "You want everybody to play well. That being said, the opportunities are out there. Certain guys move upon them, certain guys don't move upon them. He's come in focused, and he did have some momentum at the end of last year that he's carried through."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.