PHOENIX -- There was no grand pronouncement from Rockies manager Jim Tracy, but lately there has been a changing of the guard in the bullpen. Recent callup Matt Reynolds is receiving more late-game action, and veteran Joe Beimel has moved to an earlier spot.
Beimel stood out during the first half of the year, but his ERA has climbed from 2.20 through July 22 to 3.38 going into Wednesday night's game against the D-backs. Meanwhile, Reynolds, who made his debut on Aug. 19, has held opposing left-handed hitters to .167 since Sept. 9.
At this stage of the season there are still important situations for Beimel, since the expanded roster allows Tracy to play to situations earlier in games. But Reynolds has earned his late-game status.
"There was never a conversation," Reynolds said. "It just kind of as I've thrown more and more, it seemed more and more things kind of shifted. I still feel like I'm in kind of an anytime situation. I take it as it is. Whatever role they put me in, I go in there."
Tracy had method to his usage of Reynolds, who went 1-3 with a 2.62 ERA and seven saves in 50 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs.
"I just didn't throw him into the lion's mouth -- I've never done that with a young player," Tracy said. "I let the young player, by giving him the opportunity, dictate where he belongs as we go along. With the opportunities that I gave him early on, he just got people out.
"Joe has not been as sharp as he was earlier in the year, but he still has been a usable entity for us, but a little bit earlier."
Smith trying to shake off recent hitting slump
PHOENIX -- It could be one game, one at-bat, one swing, even, and Rockies outfielder Seth Smith believes he could regain his swing.
It used to be that a night like Wednesday would have been his chance. The Rockies were preparing to face D-backs right-hander Rodrigo Lopez, yet the left-handed-hitting Smith -- 3-for-10 with a home run against Lopez -- was not in the starting lineup.
It's a consequence of his current 21-for-108 (.194) skid that couldn't have come at a worse time. Smith was having problems with his swing around the time the Rockies released Brad Hawpe, the former starter in right. Smith's problems worsened, which meant he could not take advantage of an opportunity to prove he can handle being an everyday starter.
"Any time you're not in there, you're not happy about it," Smith said. "That being said, I need to play better. That's the bottom line. I realize that. I'm working on some stuff where I can get to a place where they feel more comfortable running me out there every day."
Manager Jim Tracy prefers to look at a half-full glass when explaining the decision not to start Smith. "It says what a great place Ryan Spilborghs is in right now," he said. Spilborghs, a right-handed hitter who started in left field instead of Smith, has lifted his batting average 27 points since the All-Star break, to .287 going into Wednesday.
But there is no denying Smith's struggles opened the door for Spilborghs. Rockies hitting coach Don Baylor said the problem is not necessarily mechanical with Smith.
"He's taking strike one, then they make a good pitch on him and he's hitting 0-2 a lot," Baylor said. "The adjustment he needs to make, he hasn't made.
"Before, he was a pinch-hitter. He could come off the bench and hit anybody's fastball. Now they're changing the way they're going at him. Now he has to change, not his stroke, but his thought process."
Smith admitted he is thinking too much in the batter's box, but he insists it can change quickly if he receives the chance. Until that happens, he works and waits quietly.
"To outwardly show how I feel inside is not going to do anybody any good," Smith said. "All I can do is prepare and make sure I'm ready when they do call my number."
That could happen Friday night. Tracy noted that Smith has positive numbers against against the Giants' Tim Lincecum, who will open a key three-game series at Coors Field. Smith is 6-for-23 with two home runs and a double against Lincecum. However, as an example of how this year has gone, he is 2-for-9 with two strikeouts against him in 2010.
Smith has faith he can make the most of his next chance.
"To an extent it has happened a little bit, but I haven't taken advantage of it," he said. "I'm still waiting on the, 'Go get 'em, here you go.' Regardless, I can't worry about tht stuff. I just do whatever it is that I do and hope that's enough."
Hammel to start despite 'extreme dead arm'
PHOENIX -- Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel's self-described "extreme dead arm" didn't exactly go Lazarus on him during a 30-35 pitch bullpen session on Wednesday. But he believes he is in good enough condition to start Saturday against the Giants, and that's good enough for manager Jim Tracy to pencil him in as a starter.
"As is the case with any of our guys, the leash has to be short, that's all," Tracy said. "You've got to get it done.
"What he can do for us is if he can get us into the game and give us an opportunity where he starts to run out of gas and we can involve ourselves with Esmil Rogers, it'll be fine."
One reason Tracy wants to stick with Hammel (10-8), who has felt soreness and weakness for the last several starts, is Rogers (2-2, 5.29 ERA) hasn't started a game since Aug. 31. Rogers has pitched well out of the bullpen.
If Rockies starters give them ample innings between now and Saturday, the Rockies, who are fighting for a playoff spot, can treat Saturday like a Game 7 -- with Hammel starting but Rogers ready to step in at the first sign of trouble.
Hammel said "there's a little bit of still fatigue there and I didn't really let it go" during his session of fastballs and changeups Wednesday afternoon. He admitted his 30-35 pitch session felt like 50 pitches.
But that doesn't mean he can't make the start. He said he'll have to "not try to get something that's not there" on Saturday. He also said he understands the short leash.
"It's all up to them," Hammel said. "There's huge importance on this game, and if they don't want to send somebody out there if he's not 100 percent or they don't feel he's 100 percent. ... I feel good enough to where I feel I can pitch like that, but we'll see what happens."
Dodgers set rotation so Kershaw will face Rox
PHOENIX -- The Dodgers, actively trying to stand in the way of the Rockies' playoff dreams, have changed their rotation so that left-hander Clayton Kershaw will face the Rockies next Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series at Coors Field.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre announced that Kershaw's next start has been moved up a day to Friday, against the D-backs. That will put him in line to start Wednesday in the Rockies' home finale, one that could be important to the Rockies should they stay in contention in the National League West.
Kershaw gave up four runs in four innings against the Rockies on Sunday in a game the Dodgers came back to win, but he has otherwise dominated them. He is 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in five starts against them this season.
But the plan is not a guarantee for the Dodgers. Kershaw is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings at Coors Field this season, but has struggled there in the past. He is a career 3-2 with a 5.59 ERA in seven starts there.
The Dodgers being out of the race doesn't stop Torre from wanting to have a say in who prevails.
"When we play Arizona, we're going to play a lot more of the kids we brought up," Torre told reporters Wednesday before his team's game against the Padres, who also are contending. "The challenge is to have an impact. I know if we're sitting in that dugout over there [San Diego's], or wherever we're playing, you're hoping that the team that's playing one of the contenders can knock them off. I know it's our obligation to be able to do that."
Kershaw will be on normal four days' rest when he faces the D-backs, and be on regular rest when he faces the Rockies, so it's not as if he'll be taxed unnecessarily.