UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Rockies’ call to action: ‘Hey, can you pitch?’

“It was so quick. Boom—I got two outs! I thought I was really good.

“Then Furcal came up.”

Those quotes are from former Rockie Brent Mayne, a Major League catcher for 15 seasons, in my book, 16 Pitches.

He was recalling the only time in his life when he faced hitters from the pitcher’s mound.

It was August 22, 2000; top of the 12th inning; score tied since the seventh: Rockies 6, Atlanta Braves 6.

That night, Mayne became the first position player to be the winning pitcher in a Major league game in 32 years—since slugger Rocky Colavito at the end of his illustrious career in 1968, when he played briefly for his hometown team, the Yankees.

And in the process, Mayne gained an appreciation for those who face major league hitters for a living—and learned firsthand just how hard it is to take their place.

“I remember sitting on the bench, after that inning, and immediately I could feel it. Like my hips, my arm, different parts of my body, immediately got sore. It was amazing. I was getting more sore and more sore . . . I could feel it—after 16 pitches.

“ . . . . From that point on, I really, really respected pitchers for being able to go two, three innings—much less eight, nine innings. To this day, it astounds me that guys can do that every five days.”

So far this season, infielder Alan Trejo has been there twice for the Rockies; utilityman Harold Castro once.

But they were chucking away the eighth inning of games already hopelessly lopsided—a far cry from trying to maintain a tie score. (Together, they allowed five runs.)

The way this season is going for the Rockies, there’s a good chance Trejo, Castro or some of their teammates will get the opportunity to throw additional innings before the last game ends on October 1. (Randall Grichuk and Brian Serven each pitched a scoreless frame last season.)

Through the first 50 games, cursed Colorado already had 25 guys toe the pitching rubber—10 starters.

Rotation anchor German Marquez is lost for the season; Antonio Senzatela, the rotation’s third starter when healthy, who was rehabbing a knee when the 2023 season started, is again unavailable (elbow); and promising Ryan Feltner suffered a fractured skull when struck by a line drive.

That scary scene was reminiscent of when Mayne faced Rafael Furcal:

“I remember letting go of the ball, and it felt like it was going to castrate me . . . I remember it going right between my legs . . .”
Next man up was reigning National League Most Valuable Player Chipper Jones.

“I’m thinking, ‘Just pull it. I don’t care if it’s a hit. I just don’t want to die.”

In addition to Marquez, Senzatela and Feltner this season, Noah Davis, recalled when Jose Urena washed out, made only three starts before he, too, went on the Injured List (elbow).

In the bullpen, Lucas Gilbreath, who was to be the lead lefthander in relief, underwent Tommy John surgery in spring training . . . last year’s strong arm out of the ‘pen, Tyler Kinley, is continuing to recover from his Tommy John operation . . . and Dinelson Lamet, counted on to be one of this year’s stalwarts in relief but struggling when he went on the IL (back), is now being considered as a possible starter when he returns.

Among reinforcements from Triple-A, Nick Mears appeared in four games then went down (oblique). Daniel Bard suffered a relapse of the yips.

In sum, with more than a hundred games yet to be played, this staff appears well-positioned to top the franchise record for pitchers used in a season (31 in 2019, when the Rockies won 71; infielder Mark Reynolds pitched one inning, allowing two runs.)

When then-manager Buddy Bell called to Mayne and said, ‘Hey, can you pitch?’, his only alternatives to a position player were the next day’s scheduled starter and two pitchers who had thrown more than a hundred pitches each in the games two and three days prior.

It’s doubtful Bud Black will be that desperate this year, especially with the “ghost runner” at second to shorten extra-inning games.

But with the dire condition of Colorado’s pitching staff, more lopsided affairs are likely, which makes using more position players to mop up a real possibility.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 15 books, nine of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net.