x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Colorado four-man rotation is a non-starter

An outside-the-box thinking on the past of the Colorado Rockies is not something other teams are likely to duplicate. It is desperation.

Jeremy Guthrie, the starting pitcher, has been moved to the bullpen as part of a surprising experiment. Doug Pensinger / Getty Images
Jeremy Guthrie, the starting pitcher, has been moved to the bullpen as part of a surprising experiment. Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

The Colorado Rockies are trying something radical with their pitching staff, going with a four-man starting rotation instead of the standard five.

But it won't be a throwback to the four-man rotations of the 1960s and 1970s because each starter will throw no more than 75 pitches. And it won't always be the same four starters. The Rockies plan to use seven pitchers in those four spots and rotate others in "piggyback" long relief behind the starters.

The Rockies want less emphasis on their starters, who had a 6.31 ERA when they shifted to the new system, on June 19, and more on their middle relievers, who had a less-alarming 4.06 ERA.

This outside-the-box thinking isn't something other teams are likely to duplicate. It's desperation. Pitching in the light air of the mile-high Denver continues to be an exasperating task.

Using a humidor to keep balls from drying out was supposed to be an equaliser, but it hasn't been this year; the Rockies' 5.44 ERA is the worst in the majors. Bob Apodaca, the pitching coach, has resigned, citing burnout.

All five pitchers who opened the season in the Rockies rotation have been released or sent to the minors, the disabled list or the bullpen. Their No 1 starter, Jeremy Guthrie, was moved to the bullpen to start the experiment.

In 65 games before going to a four-man rotation, the Rockies' ERA was 5.35. In their first 10 games with it, it was 5.99. That it went up is an indicator the bold idea will be short-lived.

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