Notes: Bullpen coming through
Relievers helping Rockies stay in playoff contention
SAN DIEGO -- The Rockies are in scramble mode because of injuries to their starting rotation and a couple of offensive performers. But they're still in postseason contention because of a steady bullpen that's only improving.
Between July 31 and the three scoreless relief innings in Wednesday night's 3-0 victory over the Padres, the Rockies' bullpen posted a 1.01 ERA. Colorado went into Thursday night's finale of three against San Diego with a 3.91 relief ERA for the season, the club's lowest since a 3.86 mark through April 25.
Closer Manny Corpas converted all 10 of his save chances since taking the job before the All-Star break. Clay Buchholz entered Thursday with a 4-1 record and a 2.67 ERA in 21 relief outings.
Three relievers had significant scoreless streaks -- Jeremy Affeldt (7 1/3 innings), LaTroy Hawkins (eight innings) and Jorge Julio (9 2/3 innings). Matt Herges retired seven straight to earn the win in a key victory over the Cubs on Sunday, and he had a 2.30 ERA in his last 12 games. Brian Fuentes, the three-time All-Star closer, is back from a lat injury.
The bullpen was nowhere near consistent during the first month of the season.
"You've got to give a lot of credit to [general manager] Dan O'Dowd for going out and getting Julio," Hawkins said, noting that the Rockies received Julio in a trade with the Marlins for pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim on May 13.
"That took a lot of pressure off some of the other guys, including myself. I think [Julio has] been a key piece of the puzzle. Granted, Corpas has been throwing the ball very well the whole season, but Julio is the big key."
Julio, Corpas' primary setup man -- and adviser -- pitched in four of the five games leading to Thursday, but he was ready to go again. Julio had pitched in 47 games this season and certainly could eclipse his career high of 67, set in 2002 and 2005 with the Orioles.
"I've done this before," Julio said. "I'd like to pitch every day. I don't like too much to wait three days or something like that. I like pitching a lot.
"I'm happy to play for this team and I'm happy for my role right now. Now Fuentes is back, so we have another lefty in the bullpen and we're stronger."
Still no word: The Rockies still haven't picked a starter for Saturday night, in the second of three road games against the Dodgers. Lefty prospect Franklin Morales looms as a possibility, but a trade also is possible.
The Rockies traded for Twins right-hander Ramon Ortiz on Wednesday. Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said then Ortiz would not start Saturday, but he stopped short of saying that when asked again Thursday.
"Basically, we're taking it one day at a time," said Hurdle, who said he might not make an announcement until after Friday's game.
Nice workout: Right-hander Aaron Cook, scratched from Thursday's start and officially placed on the disabled list because of a strained left oblique muscle, went through a full workout and played catch before the game.
"I didn't push it too hard, didn't get on the mound, and it felt good," Cook said.
Cook said the injury occurred Friday, while he retired the last batter he faced, the Cubs' Derrek Lee.
Cook missed nearly a calendar year, from August 2004 to July 2005, while recovering from life-threatening blood clots in both lungs, but he has not since been on the DL in the Majors.
"That's why it was disheartening when I had to call my wife and tell her they were going to put me on the DL," Cook said. "I've worked really hard to get back to this position. Things were going good. But it's one of those things that just kind of happens.
"I think I'll be 100 percent when I come back, and I'm not too worried about the rehab. I've logged a lot of innings last year and this year. My arm feels great. I don't have anything in the shoulder and elbow, so I'll try to keep my arm built up and wait until this oblique is ready to go."
Good times: Hurdle has not finished a season with a winning record since taking over for Buddy Bell in April 2002. So he is enjoying the club's success, rather than fretting over recent roster moves dictated by injuries.
"I'm absolutely having, so far to this point, the time of my managerial career," Hurdle said. "It's a blast. I haven't been involved in [a playoff race] since I was a player. Unfortunately it was early in my career, the first three out of four years, and a long drought in between.
"It's a different feeling. But it's a good feeling to watch your team show up, watch your coaches work and watch everybody embrace this. I'm really pleased with the way we go about our business. Nothing's changed now from when we were bad, not playing well. They've played with confidence from Opening Day until now. This is the opportunity we have, and it's up to us to make the most of it."
Up next: Rockies right-hander Josh Fogg (7-7, 4.64 ERA) will open a three-game set Friday at 8:40 p.m. MT against the Dodgers and, most likely, left-hander Eric Stults (0-1, 4.50 ERA), who is expected to be called up from Triple-A Las Vegas.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.