Notes: Bullpen coming together
Rockies relievers starting to put up strong numbers
BOSTON -- The Rockies' strategy on Tuesday night of using left-hander Jeremy Affeldt to face the Red Sox's David Ortiz didn't work and ultimately led to a 2-1 loss, but at least they had a clear strategy.
That may be the biggest difference between a Rockies club that fell to six games under .500 in early May, partly because of injuries and poor performance in the bullpen, and the resurgent club that continues to climb toward .500.
Affeldt's inherited runner scored the winning run, but that was just the second inherited runner to score on the Rockies' bullpen in 18 chances over 20 games. Entering Wednesday's game, strong numbers were popping up all over.
Closer Brian Fuentes has converted 18-of-20 save chances. Affeldt, who was not charged with Tuesday's run, has an eight-game scoreless streak as the main lefty setup man. Fellow lefty Tom Martin, who has eaten up innings when the team is trailing, has a shutout streak of nine games. Primary right-handed setup man Manny Corpas has not been scored on in eight of his last nine games. Righty Jorge Julio has given up one run in nine appearances since arriving in a trade with the Marlins.
"When you have people performing, it's much easier," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "When you have people where health is an issue, that's obviously a big challenge, not only for the manager, but the players that are out there pitching. Now, we have options."
The only problem in the bullpen lately has been the inactivity of right-handers Taylor Buchholz and LaTroy Hawkins, each of whom hasn't pitched in the last five games. But the Rockies are moving close to having established roles for everyone.
One problem with the way the bullpen performed earlier in the season was that several relievers, including Martin and Hawkins, both had stints on the disabled list and struggled at other points.
"I think. ... like hitting is contagious, pitching is contagious," pitching coach Bob Apodaca said. "It's no secret. It's not as if all of a sudden they've all taken a magic potion. They're just making quality pitches and getting a feel for pitching low in the strike zone."
Close to home, maybe close to hot: Rookie catcher Chris Iannetta grew up in Providence, R.I., not far from Fenway Park, so the series with the Sox represents a sort of homecoming.
"It's great to be in the stadium," Iannetta said. "Only came to about five or six games growing up, because I was playing baseball in the summers."
Now it's a matter of getting on the field at Fenway.
Hurdle started Yorvit Torrealba for the second straight night, mainly because Torrealba entered the game 5-for-10 with two doubles against Sox starter Curt Schilling in his career. But Iannetta, who began the year getting most of the starts, has hit .263 in his last 12 games to improve his average from .175 to .200
"It's not easy not getting to play every day, but sometimes it's not easy playing every day, either," Iannetta said. "Confidence-wise, and physically, I feel great."
Torrealba and Iannetta have a combined .222 batting average.
"I think that's fair to say [that the team needs more offense], and I think we've got two guys that are capable of giving us more," Hurdle said. "I think it's starting to grow a little bit. Iannetta has had a couple of good games and shown some consistency with his at-bats, and obviously, Torrealba has hit a couple of home runs the last week and a half, and had a couple more hits last night."
On the line: The Rockies announced on Wednesday that they have signed 10 of their top 13 Draft choices and 27 overall. Illinois catcher Lars Davis, the third-round choice, is the highest pick to sign.
Also among those signing were Forest Park (Ga.) High left-handed pitcher Isaiah Froneberger (fourth round); Fordham University right-hander Cory Riordan (fifth); University of South Alabama first baseman Jeff Cunningham (seventh); Tulsa (Okla.) Bishop Kelley High School righty Parker Frazier (eighth); New Mexico infielder Jordan Pacheco (ninth); Eastern Michigan righty Jeff Fischer (10th); Purdue right-hander Andrew Groves (11th); Gonzaga infielder Darin Holcomb (12th) and Virginia catcher Beau Seabury (13th).
Up next: Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis (5-5, 3.81 ERA) will start against Red Sox righty Josh Beckett (9-0, 2.88) in the series finale on Thursday night at 5:05 MT.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.