Belisle chasing postseason glory
Competitive reliever pitching in as Rockies eye playoffs
DENVER -- Matt Belisle thinks about the World Series a lot.
After an error in the last game before the All-Star break cost the Rockies a game against the National League West-leading Padres, the Colorado reliever stood in front of his locker and, with his head held high, said he'd want the ball again in the same situation in October.
Granted, Belisle has never experienced the Fall Classic, but that doesn't keep him from eluding to it most every chance he gets.
"The big situations and big games are where big things happen," Belisle said. "I want to be the guy. I just think the more experiences you have in that, the more you look forward to them and the more you execute in them."
Belisle has executed in a wide array of situations for the Rockies this year. The versatile right-hander leads the big leagues with 76 2/3 innings pitched this season. He's racked up six wins (two since Aug. 11), 16 holds, a save and struck out 79 while walking just 13.
In his last 16 1/3 innings, he's allowed one run (unearned) and one walk while striking out 18 over 14 games.
Not bad for a guy who bounced back and forth between Colorado and Triple-A Colorado Springs last season.
"He's shown he can throw multiple innings and help out when the starter doesn't go as long as we'd like," said bullpen buddy Joe Beimel, whose locker stands next to Belisle's. "And he's pitched the late innings also, whether it's coming in to face a batter here and there or to protect a lead in the eighth inning. He's even closed. It's just a tribute to him and his abilities and the things he can do."
Other than the occasional World Series dream, Belisle makes a point of never looking to the past. His 2009 campaign is something he puts in the rearview mirror.
A non-roster invitee to Spring Training, Belisle made his Rockies debut in the 2009 home opener on April 10. He was sent down in late May before briefly returning in July. After being sent down shortly thereafter, he finished the season with the Sky Sox. He was called up to the big leagues again in September.
"Did I see myself in this position? I don't ever try to look too far ahead," Belisle said. "It's just sort of in my thing to try to take care of each day. I just knew that I wanted to clean the slate and come back here as aggressive as possible and do my thing and take the ball whenever skip gives it to me."
One experience from that season has given Belisle something to build on heading into 2010. As a September callup, he threw two scoreless innings in the National League Division Series against Philadelphia.
And that's where the postseason seed was planted.
"It's just great experience for big games," Belisle said. "I think that mentality would be there regardless, and I think it has to be, no matter if you have a tough season with a squad or a losing season or a good season. That's a test of a good player -- how you take each day, no matter what.
"I want to be in as many big games as I possibly can."
Belisle attributes his competitive nature to his upbringing and the influences in his youth. A 1998 graduate from McCallum High School in Austin, Texas, the pitcher was named Sophomore of the Year in his district in baseball and Most Valuable Player as a junior. He was the Braves' first pick (second round) in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft. The Rockies signed him as a Minor League free agent on Jan. 14, 2009.
And now, if Colorado can continue its recent pace, Belisle just might get his postseason wish. The club has won four straight, coming off a three-game sweep against the NL East-leading Braves, and has reemerged in the NL Wild Card discussion.
For Rockies manager Jim Tracy, it would be a fitting reward to one of the club's most valuable arms.
"Belisle, up to this point, has had some special season," Tracy said. "He has done a great job. He's been very aggressive all year -- he attacks hitters and they recognize that. He doesn't mess around. He puts things down in a hurry.
"It's just really great to see from where we were at with where we started with him last year. He basically came from one of the lower men on the totem pole to one of the higher guys."
Joey Nowak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.