Rockies Bow To Convention, Junk 4-Man Rotation

Brian Kersey - Getty Images

Best news of the 2012 Major League Baseball season: Brandon McCarthy is expected to make a full recovery.

Second-best news of the 2012 Major League Baseball season: The Colorado Rockies committed to a four-man pitching rotation (with piggyback reliefers, no less) ... and then committed, just a few weeks ago, to continuing the experiment in 2013.

In the staid, hyper-evolved world of big-time baseball, radical experiments are few and far between; the only truly interesting thing we've seen in recent seasons has been Tampa Bay's and Milwaukee's extreme infield shifting, but even that's just a refinement of something that's been happening since the 1920s. The Rockies' four-man rotation with 75-pitch limits and designated relievers was brand new. So, by definition, fascinating.

The operative word here being "was" ... because the Rockies have junked the fascinating experiment, both for this season and next.

The club actually went to a five-man rotation a month ago, but did maintain the low pitch limits and did say they'd return to the four-man rotation next season. Now, though? Not so much. Here is MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby:

With the return of Jhoulys Chacin from the disabled list last month, the Rockies reverted to using a five-man rotation, saying in part it was because Chacin had been on the disabled list since May 1, and Drew Pomeranz was suffering from some soreness.

On Friday, however, the Rockies, who decided to use a four-man starting rotation in late June, said they will continue to use the traditional five-man rotation next year. The team will continue to use three hybrid relievers, as they refer to a reliever who works on a set schedule and has been called on when a starter gets to a point where he will be facing a lineup for the third time in the game.

Well, that's still sort of interesting ... three hybrid relievers ... although I'm not sure why they're called hybrids, since they're still relief pitchers and nothing else. Maybe because they're actually working on a schedule, like a starting pitcher. Okay. And this will be interesting if the starters are still on those really low pitch limits. That will still be different enough to be interesting. Wait, what?

Bill Geivett, assistant general manager, met with the Rockies players to explain the plan on Friday afternoon, and afterward briefed the media.

While the Rockies have had a quasi-75 pitch limit in the four-man alignment, they will allow pitchers to throw between 90 and 100 pitches in the new approach.

Between 90 and 100 pitches? You mean, basically like most teams run their pitching staffs? Where nobody gets to throw more than 100 pitches unless they're cruising and don't get into any real trouble and there's not an ace closer in the bullpen?

Gosh, I don't know, guys. This sounds to me like the Rockies are moving toward a pitching plan that is ... almost perfectly conventional. It seems like the next step, anyway, though perhaps not announced until next March

Or maybe they'll change their minds again. Coming soon, to a mile-high ballpark near you: Nine hybrids, each pitching three innings every three days but starting once every nine days. One of these years, something's going to click.

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