Gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich is con­fi­dent his 52-39 club will shine af­ter the all-star break.

GM says all-star break will al­low Rocks to re­boot

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders Pa­trick Saun­ders is the pres­i­dent of the Base­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica: psaun­ders@den­ver­post.com or @psaun­der­sdp

If Jeff Bridich is alarmed by the Rock­ies’ re­cent tum­ble from grace, he sure doesn’t show it.

The club’s third-year gen­eral man­ager gives mea­sured, cal­cu­lated answers when asked about the mound of trou­ble that’s cropped up af­ter the best start in fran­chise history.

“In terms of the mo­men­tum of the sea­son, it’s kind of been two and a half good months and then two and a half bad weeks,” Bridich said when asked to pro­vide an as­sess­ment of the Rock­ies at the al­ls­tar break. “I think the way we played base­ball in April and May, and half of June, was in­dica­tive of the type of tal­ent this team has.”

Colorado spent 59 days in first place in the Na­tional League West, reach­ing its pin­na­cle on June 20 when it was 47-26. The Rock­ies reached 50 vic­to­ries faster than any other team in fran­chise history, do­ing it in 87 games. They are an im­pres­sive 17-8-4 in se­ries this sea­son.

“We were able to win games in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways,” Bridich said. “That is a good trait and the trait of a win­ning team. I think we’ve shown the abil­ity to pitch very ef­fec­tively, and we’ve shown the abil­ity to play very good de­fense for long stretches of time.

“I think our of­fense has prob­a­bly been the most roller-coaster as­pect of this team. Some­times it looks great and some­times it seems to com­pletely dis­ap­pear.”

Dur­ing spring train­ing, play­ers and first-year man­ager Bud Black talked op­ti­misti­cally about the Rock­ies win­ning their first NL West ti­tle. But that goal has all but evap­o­rated as the Rock­ies (52-39) dropped 13 of the last 18 games en­ter­ing their mid­sum­mer va­ca­tion. The high-fly­ing, for­mi­da­ble Los An­ge­les Dodgers are 9K games ahead of the Rock­ies. The sav­ing grace is that the Rock­ies hold a 7K-game lead over the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Car­di­nals for the NL’s sec­ond wild-card play­off berth.

De­spite left-han­der Kyle Free­land’s near no-hit­ter against the Chicago White Sox at Coors Field on Sun­day, the Rock­ies’ late June swoon and early July malaise fea­tured some trou­bling trends. Start­ing pitch­ers have a 5.88 ERA dur­ing the 18-game stretch, and re­liev­ers have strug­gled, go­ing 0-4 with two blown saves while post­ing a 5.06 ERA.

Some in the me­dia have pointed to the re­cent strug­gles of the Rock­ies’ rookie starters — Free­land, Ger­man Mar­quez, Jeff Hoff­man and An­to­nio Sen­za­tela — as the root of the prob­lem. The the­ory goes that grow­ing pains and in­ex­pe­ri­ence caught up to the rook­ies af­ter their fast starts.

Bridich, how­ever, doesn’t agree with that the­ory. And, of course, Free­land’s gem Sun­day fur­ther de­bunks the con­cept.

“I don’t nec­es­sar­ily buy in to this whole con­cept that young play­ers have to go through some sort of roller-coaster ride dur­ing the sea­son,” Bridich said. “I think, maybe be­cause of what’s hap­pened in the past, that our lo­cal me­dia kind of or­dains that it must hap­pen. You’re wait­ing for it and you’re talk­ing about it. But that doesn’t mean it has to hap­pen.

“So I think that’s mis­placed. There are plenty of vet­er­ans — and we have some — who go through pe­ri­ods of the sea­son where it’s great, but then they go through large parts where they strug­gle. And no­body blames that on lack of age.

“If you are at this level and you are good enough to be here, then you are good enough to play well here.”

The bullpen, rel­a­tive to the start­ing ro­ta­tion, is a vet­eran group. But its strug­gles have in­creased as the sea­son has moved along. All-star closer Greg Hol­land and late-game left­ies Jake McGee and Chris Rusin have been re­li­able, but oth­ers have not been. For ex­am­ple, right-handed setup man Adam Ot­tavino had a 2.84 ERA on June 17, but it’s now 5.74. Left-han­der Mike Dunn, whom the Rock­ies signed for $19 mil­lion over three years, had a 1.17 ERA in April be­fore he went on the dis­abled list be­cause of back spasms. He hasn’t been the same since, his ERA ris­ing to 5.40.

If the Rock­ies re­main in the post­sea­son race as the July 31 non­waiver trade dead­line nears, it seems log­i­cal that Bridich and his staff will ex­plore trad­ing for one or two ac­com­plished re­liev­ers. Per­haps some­one such as Pat Neshek, Philadel­phia’s side-arm right-han­der, or Brad Hand, San Diego’s dy­namic lefty, would fit the bill.

If that is in­deed the case, the GM is not tip­ping his hand.

“We are go­ing to in­ves­ti­gate ev­ery­thing,” Bridich said. “Our job in the front of­fice is to do our job well, es­pe­cially this time of year. Do we have a de­tailed plan right now? Not nec­es­sar­ily yet, be­cause there is still a lot of in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing go­ing on and there is still a lot of base­ball left to play.

“But we are in full-blown in­for­ma­tion-gath­er­ing mode and we’re talk­ing to a lot of teams. But I’m also keep­ing in mind that this is the same group that was 20 games over .500 not too long ago.”

The most per­plex­ing thing about Colorado has been its two-faced of­fense. It has been up and down for much of the sea­son, and the club ranks a dis­ap­point­ing ninth in the NL with 104 home runs. The most dis­ap­point­ing player, by far, has been three-time all-star out­fielder Car­los Gon­za­lez. He is bat­ting only .221 with just six home runs, 22 RBIs, a .299 on-base per­cent­age and a .147 av­er­age with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion.

Gon­za­lez in­sists there is noth­ing wrong with him phys­i­cally, and says there are no is­sues in his per­sonal life af­fect­ing his per­for­mance. He’s sim­ply in the worst funk of his ca­reer and his tim­ing re­mains a mess.

Asked if there is any­thing he can add to help ex­plain Gon­za­lez’s slump, Bridich replied: “I don’t have any­thing I can share.”

Taken as a whole, Colorado’s of­fense has been slid­ing down­hill since June 20. Over the past 18 games, the Rock­ies are bat­ting .247, with a .264 av­er­age with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion. Bridich does have a the­ory about that.

“Lately, dur­ing this three-week stretch, it looks like there are a lot of phys­i­cally and men­tally fa­tigued peo­ple who are also try­ing very hard,” he said. “And there are also a lot of empty at-bats. A lot of times, that means strike­outs.”

But the GM sees light af­ter the all-star break.

“I would say that there is a bet­ter and more con­sis­tent of­fense com­ing from this group,” Bridich said. “I do be­lieve we are go­ing to see that in the sec­ond half.

“But in or­der for us to start play­ing bet­ter base­ball over­all, I think this team needs to re­group a lit­tle bit, rest up a lit­tle bit and re­lax. We need to start get­ting back to win­ning games by win­ning the sit­u­a­tions. I be­lieve we can get back to be­ing a lineup that is pro­duc­tive, plays to­gether and plays off each other.”

John Leyba, Den­ver Post file

Rock­ies gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich says of his 52-39 team: “The way we played base­ball in April and May, and half of June, was in­dica­tive of the type of tal­ent this team has.”

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