TEAM NEEDS SPLASH FOR OCTOBER SHOT
With Neshek added, another splash may be needed for an October shot
ST. LOUIS» The Rockies’ road to the playoffs once looked like easy street. Not anymore.
Getting swept in three games at St. Louis was the latest detour for a team that has lost 16 of its last 19 road games and has gone 11-19 since its high-water mark on June 20 (47-26). The Rockies hold a 4K-game lead over slumping Milwaukee for the National League’s second wild-card playoff berth.
The Rockies, however, made a major statement Wednesday night by trading for Philadelphia right-handed reliever Pat Neshek. The two-time all-star will be used as a primary setup man to closer Greg Holland. Other moves might be in the works before Monday’s nonwaiver trade deadline.
Adding another bullpen arm is a real possibility. Neshek, whose contract expires at the end of this season, is essentially a rental reliever. But the Rockies could also trade for a reliever who would be under the club’s control beyond this season, and perhaps take over for Holland. Holland has a mutual option and is likely to become a free agent after this season. Among the possible longer-term bullpen options for Colorado are Miami closer AJ Ramos, Detroit’s Justin Wilson and Baltimore’s Brad Brach.
Also, with catcher Tony Wolters struggling, the Rockies have been exploring trade possibilities for a veteran catcher. As MLB.com reported earlier this week, Colorado has shown interest in Texas veteran Jonathan Lucroy, as well as Atlanta’s Kurt Suzuki and Detroit’s Alex Avila.
All three catchers would be rentals, because they become free agents at the end of the season. Lucroy is the biggest name, but he has struggled at the plate, batting .245 with just four home runs. He also carries the biggest salary of the three — $5.75 million.
The sooner help arrives, the better for the Rockies. They open a three-game series at Washington on Friday night against a muscled Nationals team that took three of four at Coors Field from April 24-27. The Nationals outscored Colorado 46-29 in that series. Thursday afternoon, the Nationals tied a franchise record with eight home runs in a 15-2 rout of Milwaukee, including two apiece by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman.
Translation: The Rockies face a huge challenge to get back on course. That starts with their young starting pitching.
“We didn’t pitch well two of the three games,” manager Bud Black said Wednesday night after the Rockies were blasted 10-5 by the Cardinals. “When your starter in Game 1 (Antonio Senzatela) and Game 3 (Jeff Hoffman) only go four innings and give up a number of runs, it makes it awful tough.”
Despite getting swept by the Cardinals, the news that the Rockies’ front office made a major move by trading for Neshek provided a shot of energy to the clubhouse.
“This was a really disappointing series for us here, but I think getting a guy like that, and having an off day (Thursday) is really going to help us,” all-star second baseman DJ LeMahieu said. “And playing the Nationals, I mean, if you can’t get up for that series than we are in trouble.”
Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who continues to fight a seasonlong slump hitting just .227 with six home runs and 26 RBIs, believes the Rockies will get back on track.
“We just had a bad series here,” Gonzalez said. “You can’t doubt yourself. This is a good team and we have been playing well for the entire year. We just have to put that series in the past.
“We will show up and expect to win the series in Washington. I think that’s the attitude we have to have when we go to Washington. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, we still have to keep moving forward.”
The Rockies acquired Phillies reliever Pat Neshek on Wednesday to bolster their bullpen. Neshek, who made his second all-star team this year, has a 1.12 ERA over 43 outings.