Apodaca re-assigned, named special assistant
Rockies name Wright, McLaughlin co-pitching coaches
DENVER -- Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca -- a key creator of the team's unusual four-man rotation -- was reassigned at his request on Tuesday.The Rockies named bullpen coach Jim Wright and Triple-A Colorado Springs pitching coach Bo McLaughlin as co-pitching coaches, with McLaughlin in charge of starters and Wright in charge of relievers. Apodaca was named special assistant to general manager Dan O'Dowd, and will be responsible for special pitching assignments. Apodaca, 62, was the Rockies' pitching coach since 2003, the first full year that former skipper Clint Hurdle managed the team. He remained pitching coach when Jim Tracy replaced Hurdle during the 2009 season. Apodaca met with the team before Tuesday night's game against the Nationals at Coors Field, but was not available to the media. Apodaca, who was pitching coach with the Mets and Brewers before his tenure with the Rockies, arrived early Tuesday and ended up requesting a meeting with O'Dowd. Apodaca had wanted to meet with Tracy, but the manager had not arrived at Coors Field. Apodaca informed Tracy when he arrived. "I have a great relationship with Bob so, no, I wasn't surprised, as this is a difficult and challenging position," O'Dowd said. "In 10 years, Bob has been the ultimate professional. I have some ideas for Bob the rest of the year. We really didn't get into things beyond that." Tracy, however, said he was caught off-guard. "He's the proud man that he is," Tracy said. "It was quite an emotional discussion in my office. He did not want the interpretation to be as though he was abandoning the ship, or anything like that. It was something that was extremely heartfelt, because I saw the way he reacted as he was describing that to me. "I completely understand where he's at. I know what stress and fatigue can do to a man. In the long run, this may end up doing Bobby a world of good. I really, truly understand in my heart that he is emotionally, physically and mentally eaten up right now, and he deserves a break." Under Apodaca, the Rockies went to the World Series in 2007, had five 10-game winners in '09 for the first time in club history and set club ERA marks in '07 (4.32) and '10 (4.22). "'Dac' cares more than any coach I've had," said veteran left-hander Jeff Francis, who pitched for the club from 2004-10 and returned this season. "I owe a lot of my career to him." But this year has brought mound misery. The Rockies' pitching struggles are quantified by a 5.29 team ERA, which includes a 6.36 ERA for starters. The Rockies beefed up their offense, but the foundering of the pitching -- especially the starters -- has been a key cause of a 28-44 record going into Tuesday night. The situation led the Rockies last Tuesday to go to an unusual starting pitching plan. Colorado is using a four-man rotation with a 75-pitch limit, as an extreme attempt to force the pitchers to attack the strike zone more effectively. The concept has been talked about by analysts in the Rockies' front office for years, but Apodaca was part of giving it a chance in actual competition. "Bob and Jimmy Wright were probably the two biggest creators and supporters of the concept," O'Dowd said. "That had nothing to do with his decision." Francis has had two strong starts in victories, but Alex White has pitched himself to a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, Christian Friedrich lost last Friday against Texas in his first start under the new system and Josh Outman couldn't make it through five innings, despite being given an early 10-run lead in the team's win against Texas on Saturday. Currently, there are three injured starting pitchers -- lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who underwent Tommy John surgery last year; righty Jhoulys Chacin, who struggled before a nerve issue in his chest was discovered; and Juan Nicasio, who has a strained left knee. Additionally, right-hander Jeremy Guthrie was the Opening Day starter, but he struggled so much in 11 starts (3-6, 7.02 ERA) that he was moved to the bullpen, where he has pitched well in long relief. If Apodaca stays in his new post, he could have an impact. In past seasons, the Rockies have had longtime Major League pitching coaches Mark Wiley and, for the last eight years, Marcel Lachemann in special assistant posts. They have been instrumental in the development of prospects and in advising O'Dowd on decisions to acquire pitching. Lachemann joined the front office of the Angels, a team he once managed and served as pitching coach, this past winter. Depending on Apodaca's future plans, he could fill Lachemann's shoes. Wright was pitching coach in 2002, when Hurdle took over for Buddy Bell. After Hurdle brought in Apodaca, a friend and colleague from their time in the Mets' organization, Wright worked in the Rockies' Minor League system. Wright returned as bullpen coach in 2009. He said Apodaca called him before the meetings with O'Dowd and Tracy. "I was surprised," Wright said. "We had been together 10 years, including the last four up here. We became very close. We had worked together, bounced things off of each other. "Everybody's got their own reasons. He's been around a long time. He's a good man. I think in some respects he felt, as someone who has pride in his work, he was letting people down. I don't agree with that. But it takes a lot of guts to walk away." Wright was in the dugout for Tuesday night's game but will be in the bullpen, with McLaughlin in the bullpen, starting Wednesday.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.