The Colorado Rockies introduced their seventh manager in franchise history Monday morning. General manager Jeff Bridich and new skipper Bud Black sat side-by-side inside the bowels of Coors Field, taking questions from the media.
About halfway through the press conference, someone asked the inevitable: How could Black’s 15 seasons as a big-league pitcher help guide a ball club that plays in the toughest pitcher’s park in America?
Black didn’t beat around the bush.
“I see the game through the pitcher’s eyes,” said Black, who compiled a 121-116 record and 3.84 ERA with five MLB teams. “I was a pitcher. I see the game that way. So I think it’s natural for me to have an easier conversation with a pitcher about mechanics or mindset. That might aid young pitching. That might in general aid pitching.
“The information that I’ve gathered and learned on my own doing homework is we have some talented pitchers.”
There were many reasons Bridich said he and the Rockies’ brass brought Black aboard. He was the manager of the divisional-rival San Diego Padres for eight-plus seasons, and has also worked in front-office roles before. He gets along with people. He’s not averse to modern-day analytics or new-age strategies to playing the game.
But make no mistake, the biggest reason the Rockies hired Black was simple: The man’s specialty is pitching.
It was a little telling that the first Rockies player Black cited wasn’t the superstar third baseman, or batting-champion second baseman. It was the 25-year-old starting pitcher who broke the Rockies’ rookie strikeout record last season.
“It’s going to be easier for me to talk mechanics with Jon Gray than to talk to Nolan (Arenado) about where his hand should be,” Black said. “For me to talk hitting mechanics with Nolan, probably not. I’ll leave that to the hitting guys.”
Pitching is a constant struggle in the altitude at Coors Field. Colorado hasn’t finished higher than 26th in team ERA since 2010. In the last five years, the Rockies have finished 30th, 28th, 30th, 30th and 28th in that category.
There are some reasons to be optimistic that will turn around. Gray, Tyler Anderson, Tyler Chatwood and Chad Bettis form the foundation of what could be a solid starting rotation. They are all between 25 and 27 years old.
Black’s biggest concern will be bringing them along, in addition to working with a bullpen that was among the worst in baseball a season ago. It remains to be seen if the Rockies will add any bullpen arms in free agency.
Colorado’s opening-day lineup looks stacked. Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu, Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Trevor Story and David Dahl are a terrifying one-through-six combination of hitters to face.
The biggest questions mark, as it always seems to be with the Rockies, is pitching. We know the Rockies have the bats. How the arms perform will likely determine if this club goes to the postseason for the first time since 2009.
“The human being and how he’s going to help us win and manage the people around him is more important than however many games he won as a pitcher,” Bridich said of Black. “With that being said, the pitching aspect at the major league level is something that we have focused on and probably put the most energy and time on in the last two-plus years here.”
Like what you see? Subscribe to Denverite’s weekly sports newsletter here.