Results tagged ‘ Eric Byrnes ’

No patience with walks

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle has attempted to maintain a consistent and calm demeanor, even though the execution and fundamentals the Rockies emphasized all spring have been lacking. But that patience disappears when relievers can’t throw strikes in the late innings of close games.

Huston Street lost his closer job that way last week at Wrigley Field. Tuesday night, Hurdle unceremoniously yanked righty setup man Jason Grilli when he walked two in the eighth inning of the 9-6 victory over the D-backs.

There would have been cause for Hurdle to try to let Grilli escape. By using lefty Alan Embree to complete the inning, Hurdle left himself with only Manuel Corpas to finish the game. The only other reliever on the squad, Jason Hammel, had thrown two innings the previous game, and Franklin Morales’ injury early in Tuesday’s game meant Hammel was going to move into the starting rotation.

But he was not going to lose a game because Grilli wasn’t throwing strikes.

“We’ve got no time for walks late in ballgames,” Hurdle said. “Nobody. We’re not going to put up with that. If you can’t throw the ball over the plate late in a ballgame, I’ve got to get somebody else. It’s that simple.

“If you want more, and you’ve got an opportunity to do more but you walk two left-handed batters and you’re missing on your arm side six or seven straight pitches, I’ve got to go get you. He knows that.

“You saw the guy two nights ago, then you saw the guy last night. I asked him, ‘Which guy are you?’ That’s part of the challenge that’s in front of him. If you want more, do more.”

Here are the lineups for Wednesday afternoon:

Rockies

Ryan Spilborghs              CF

Jeff Baker                        2B

Todd Helton                     1B

Garrett Atkins                  3B

Brad Hawpe                     RF

Troy Tulowitzki                SS

Chris Iannetta                   C

Seth Smith                      LF

Jorge De La Rosa              P

D-backs

Felipe Lopez                   2B

Stephen Drew                 SS

Conor Jackson                LF

Mark Reynolds               3B

Chad Tracy                    1B

Chris Young                   CF

Eric Byrnes                    RF

Chris Snyder                   C

Dan Haren                      P

Helton takes a seat

The Rockies promised all along that they would be smart about first baseman Todd Helton’s playing time, since he’s 35 and coming off back problems. So he did not start agianst D-backs left-hander Doug Davis on Wednesday. The team is off on Thursday, so he’ll go into Friday’s home opener with plenty of rest.

Right fielder Brad Hawpe was the only left-handed hitter in the lineup. It’s the first start of the year for center fielder Dexter Fowler, third baseman Jeff Baker and catcher Yorvit Torrealba.

Here’s the Rockies’ lineup:

Dexter Fowler            CF

Troy Tulowitzki          SS

Ryan Spilborghs        LF

Garrett Atkins            1B

Brad Hawpe               RF

Jeff Baker                 3B

Clint Barmes             2B

Yorvit Torrealba           C

 

Here is the D-backs’ lineup against lefty Franklin Morales.

Felipe Lopez               2B

Stephen Dres              SS

Chris Young                CF

Conor Jackson             1B

Mark Reynolds             3B

Eric Byrnes                  LF

Chris Snyder                 C

Justin Upton                RF

Doug Davis                   P

 

 

Final Opening Day thoughts …

Spring Training was devoted to execution, especially offensively, but the Rockies did not come through on two opportunities to execute two plays. In the second inning, Ian Stewart took a called third strike on a Brandon Webb, full-count pitch that he never thought was a strike, and Brad Hawpe was thrown out at second for a double play. In the sixth, Ryan Spilborghs swung through a Billy Buckner pitch and Chris Iannetta was thrown out at second. Spilborghs would fan to end the inning.

Manager Clint Hurdle, reiterating what he said all spring, vowed that the aggressiveness would not stop.

“We have talked long and hard this spring, and we’ve done a very good job at it,” Hurdle said. “Today we just weren’t able to pull a trigger.

“We’ve done very well at it all spring. I anticipate we will.”

Stewart said, “I thought it was a little in, but 3-2, I should’ve been swinging at that.”

So this is as good a time as any to see if the Rockies are serious about the aggressiveness. Many teams set such goals in Spring Training, but after a couple of runners caught stealing you see guys feel they don’t have a jump and shut down their steal attempts. Or you see weak swings that, at best, foul pitches off. Worse than all that, managers give up and play station-to-station baseball.

But two occasions in the third inning, one that worked for the Rockies and one that didn’t, illustrate why aggressive baserunning is the way to go.

On Brad Hawpe’s three-run double, it looked as if the throw to the plate beat Garrett Atkins. However, D-backs catcher Chris Snyder didn’t get a favorable bounce on the throw and had to field the ball too deep behind the plate. Atkins slid feet-first but darted his left hand to the plate beneath the tag.

In the bottom of the inning with Stephen Drew at third, Eric Byrnes hit a fly ball to Spilborghs in center field. Spilborghs had time to set his feet and put momentum behind the throw, but the ball was just off the plate and Drew scored.

– When asked about difficult decisoins, such as starting Stewart instead of Clint Barmes at second base could bruise feelings and made things tough on a manager, Hurdle bristled.

“We’ve weiged that all out,” Hurdle said. “If it’s about their ego, it’s about the wrong thing. If they have any challenges or any questions, come in and we’ll talk about it. I’ll have reasons for the decisions that I make. Whether they agree with them or not, that’s understandable. You want your players to want to play.”

Hurdle then mentioned that each player should be able to look at his teammate and understand the different talents that lead to different decisions. As far as anyone knows, and we may never know, no one challenged Hurdle.

No one went public with disagreement but certainly, the potential for disagreement was there. Barmes had an outstanding Spring Training and was the primary guy all spring. But the players had to be aware of the potential of a left-on-right matchup with Stewart, who has a power swing, against Webb. The matchups dictated such the decision.

Can a player’s desire to play be contrary to a team goal? Must a player supposed to stifle his disagreement with the manager’s decision? How much should emotion be considered, against numbers and matchups?

If baseball were strictly a top-down society, where the boss’ word is law, those questions would have obvious answers. But players hold much more power, because they’re harder to replace, than the average employee. So this is not like a normal workplace, or even like the teams many of the fans played on at the youth, high school and college levels. The players’ unique sets of abilities give them a high level of clout.

So while Hurdle’s quotes to the media about the role ego should not play are well-taken, the key for him is to make sure the players are constantly kept on board with his thinking and reasoning.

 

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