SAN DIEGO -- Friday's announcement that the Rockies are planning to use a five-man rotation in 2013 was a meaningful one, given the team's well-documented experimentation with the four-man approach for much of 2012. But, in reality, Colorado has been in a five-man setup for much of the past month, in particular since the return of Joulys Chacin in late August.
For players and coaches, then, the most important part of the announcement was not necessarily the number of pitchers used, but rather the number of pitches: Rockies Assistant GM Bill Geivett said next year's starters will have between 75 and 90-100 pitches to work with, rather than the 75 they've been held to for much of this season. That, says manager Jim Tracy, is a crucial point.
"No doubt, that's my understanding," Tracy said of the extended pitch-count portion of the 2013 plan. "That, in itself, can change the dynamics of a lot of things. Personally, in a very positive way."
"We were going to do what they told us to do, but it's nice to know you have the four-days' rest between starts and they're going to allow us maybe a few more pitches here and there when we deserve them," starter Alex White said.
As Tracy discussed Saturday's starter Drew Pomeranz prior to the game, he spoke to the efficiency the Rockies have tried to emphasize from starting pitchers this season, a lesson the short 75-pitch pitch count forced them to learn.
But even so, giving his starters a chance to work deeper and complete what they began is something Tracy values.
"This is something that we're trying to encourage not only [with Pomeranz], but to all our guys is the importance of being efficient," Tracy said"Having a lead and having to pull him, that's not something I like to do. You'd like to give that guy the opportunity to be involved in a chance to win the ballgame. But if he runs his number way up, then you move forward with it and make the switch."
Part of the reason the Rockies went to the four-man, piggyback approach in the first place was the fact that Tracy was consistently having to make switches early in ballgames, something that took a toll on the young arms in his bullpen. While Geivett said the piggyback role will remain, and that Adam Ottavino, Guillermo Moscoso, and Carlos Torres will each pitch every third day on a maximum of 45 pitches, the differences in the 2013 approach are positive ones in the eyes of the Rockies.
"We've really been on a five-man for a while now. It's really not a shock, I think we've been pitching well," White said. "They've figured out a plan to be able to stay with a five-man and also protect members of the 'pen. We're all excited. Moving forward, I personally think that's going to be good for us, staying on a five man, help us compete in this division."
"Using five starters makes an incredible amount of sense to me," Tracy said.
Tulo bonding with future double-play partner
SAN DIEGO -- Hours before Saturday's game with the Padres, Rockies' second baseman Josh Rutledge sat alone at the video table, studying film to prepare for the evening's game.
The 23-year-old wasn't alone for long, as injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki meandered across the clubhouse, asked "What're you doin', Rut?" and pulled up a chair to the right of the rookie.
Tulowitzki is trying to spend as much time to the right of Rutledge as he can, as many believe he and the University of Alabama product are the Colorado double play combination of the near -- and distant -- future. And while he has missed 94 games with that troublesome left groin issue, the 27-year-old Tulowitzki is doing everything he can to make sure the duo won't need any time to get acclimated come 2013.
"It's tough right now because of the fact that I've never gotten to play with him at this level. He doesn't know what I'm about. I've worked out with him in the offseason, seen him play a lot, but he's never gotten that full experience with me, so it's tough to gain trust that way," Tulowitzki said. "I think just talking to him -- making him realize that he's a huge part of this organization and is going to be for a long time, I think that's only going to help his learning curve."
Rutledge has played shortstop in Tulo's absence and done so very well: he's hitting .298 with seven homers in 54 games, 43 of which came at short. Jim Tracy has said he's going to give Rutledge more time at second as September rolls along in anticipation of his projected role in 2013. He's played just two games there so far this year.
"He has a good shot," Tulowitzki said of Rutledge being his double-play partner down the line, though he did mention the great potential he sees in other young infielders like D.J. LeMahieu and Chris Nelson, as well. "I think the biggest thing at a young age is his emotions: he doesn't let the game get the best of him. I can learn from him for that -- I try to tell him, I'm an emotional player -- he doesn't do that at all. He grabs his glove, goes out there on defense, and doesn't say a word, and I respect that about him."
Tulowitzki also hopes he can serve as the kind of veteran sounding board for Rutledge that he, himself, valued as a young player.
"When I was young, there were some veteran guys that would talk to me and it just makes you sleep that much better at night thinking, 'Hey, these guys went through it, too, some of these players I watched growing up, some of these guys I respect,'" Tulowitzki said. "They're going through the same struggles you're going through."
Pacheco to get start at catcher on Sunday
SAN DIEGO -- In the wake of Ramon Hernandez's season-ending hamstring surgery and in light of the defensive struggles of and workload on rookie Wilin Rosario, the Rockies are turning to Jordan Pacheco to eat some innings behind the plate Sunday. This will be Pacheco's second start behind the plate this season.
That start also came against the Padres, meaning that the 26-year-old will at least have some familiarity with the lineup in addition to what information he can glean from film prior to the game. Still, Pacheco has spent much of 2012 bouncing around the infield and swinging the hottest bat of any National League rookie -- jobs that have cut into any time that he might have spent honing catching skills on a consistent basis this year.
"Since he's been bouncing back and forth between first and third, he's been playing every day, we never have a whole lot of time to be quite honest with you," Colorado catching coach Jerry Weinstein said. "When he gets a day off, we'd like it to be a day off. A lot of times when you're working on catching skills it's tougher than playing in a game, because you're blocking and all."
Weinstein and Pacheco have put in some extra work over the past few days in order to prepare for Sunday.
"The past four days we've spent probably 20 minutes a day blocking and receiving, and throws and stuff," Weinstein said.
Pacheco said he'll work on those basic catching skills at points throughout the year, but hasn't been lifting as a catcher might or putting significant time into the job he did full time from extended Spring Training in 2008 until late last season. Sunday will be his fourth big-league game behind the plate.
"I like it," Pacheco said of catching. "It's a tough job, but it's fun."
"He's going to be fine," Weinstein said. "Based on his last outing here, I think he'll be fine."
Pacheco was not in the starting lineup Saturday night in order to give his body a rest before Sunday.
"Playing nine more innings tonight and then running back there and catching tomorrow, I didn't feel that would be the best thing for him to do tonight," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. "So we're giving him a break tonight."
Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.