Jun 8, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Diego Padres manager Bud Black (20) watches a game against the Atlanta Braves in the second inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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During his introductory press conference on Monday, new Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black talked a lot about pitching. Knowing Black’s background as a player and coach, that shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Also knowing Colorado’s biggest problem in recent years, the fact that Black talked a lot about pitching shouldn’t surprise anyone either.
“When I spoke with (Colorado general manager) Jeff (Bridich) and the guys, we had a really good day. The conversation was great. We talked a lot of good baseball and philosophy. We got to know each other. They were extremely honest and open and I tried to do the same,” Black told reporters.
Of course, much of that conversation focused on pitching. While many of us outside the organization are focused on pitchers who could come in for the Rockies this season (I outlined some options here), Black believes there is talent on this team, including the pitchers, to carry it into the postseason.
“The pitching side is going to be a challenge no matter where you are,” Black said. “The big thing is to keep the guys who have been here and who have made steps forward, especially last year, to keep that trend. Guys like (Chad) Bettis, (Tyler) Chatwood, and (Jon) Gray. We also need to get guys back on track who maybe had off years last year. A few guys in the bullpen who were maybe just a little off-kilter, we have to get those guys back on track. We have to develop the younger pitchers who are coming through the system. We have to get them acclimated to big league pitching.
“There are 15, 16 or 17 guys who will ultimately take on a lot of the innings here. That number is staying relatively healthy and that’s critical. The talent base of the pitching is there when you look at the scouting report or when you hear scouts talk. They’re excited about the talent and the arms and the guys have to keep progressing.”
Of course, when you talk about the Rockies and pitching, the subject of Coors Field must come up. With his experience managing the San Diego Padres, Black feels comfortable embracing the altitude at his new home park.
“It definitely helps. Obviously I don’t know 81 games here during the regular season but I know nine or 10 times for nine years,” Black said. “I’ve seen shutouts. I’ve seen low-scoring games. As (Rockies TV play-by-play) Drew Goodman said, I’ve seen ping-pong games here as well. I would hope that I’m not surprised by anything and embrace it.
“It’s baseball. Whether you’re playing in Miami, Toronto or St. Louis, it’s a baseball game. It’s our nine guys versus theirs and somebody has to come out on top in the end. We’re going to do everything we can to get our players where they need to be. The thing that I like that about this situation is that our players feel that too. I sense that. I get the vibe that our players feel good about themselves and each other and the team. That’s a great start. I’m excited about that.”
Black had some interesting things to say about his starters, the much-maligned Colorado bullpen and his familiarity with the National League West. We’ve compiled some of the best of his quotes from his opening conference on those subjects on the next page.
Jun 12, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres manager Bud Black (20) gestures before the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Black on his familiarity with the National League West
“I know this division but players change. I’m long-time friends with Bruce (Bochy) in San Francisco. Dave (Roberts) managing in LA was my coach for five years. Torey Lovullo, I coached him in 1998 in Buffalo. It’s familiar. I know these guys are competitive and these teams are competitive. It’s a dogfight and we have to catch a couple of them.”
What Black has seen from the pitching in Colorado in recent seasons
“You could see what’s happened the last couple of years. There’s been an uptick in a lot of areas, including the confidence of the players and where they think they are. We have to have the pitching catch up with the hitting. The bullpen last year had an off year. A lot of it was due to injury, but I sense guys who were a little banged up last year are going to come back healthy. Hopefully, a full year of (Adam) Ottavino will make a big difference. The pitching is critical. Every manager talks about that, but a lot of things are pointing in the right direction.”
Are there any pitchers who remind Black of himself?
“I’m one who thinks every pitcher is unique. There are some guys who I have come across in the past who I could see a little bit of me in them but on this staff, no. I don’t think my style would ever be confused with Jon Gray or Chad Bettis or Jake McGee or Ottavino. Tyler Anderson is a little funky with his delivery with the leg kick and the pause. I was more classic. What I do like about the pitching is the uniqueness of it. All of these guys do it their way. We talked about that in the interview. Is there a certain style that works here? I don’t think so. You know what works here? Good pitching and making pitches and getting outs. That’s what we have to do. I don’t think we have to change anybody. We have to make guys better and these guys are pretty good to start with.”
What kind of pitching works at Coors Field?
“I think each pitcher has their style how they get their outs. I think any style can work here if the pitcher makes his pitches. If a guy is a four-seam fastball guy at the top of the zone, that can work. It’s a big outfield. If you’re a pitcher who can pitch at the top of the zone and make bats miss, that’s fine. I don’t think we have to turn a four-seam guy if that’s his strength into a sinkerballer. What works is the ability to command the fastball, throw a breaking ball for a strike, bounce a breaking ball when needed and throw a changeup. That works. The games I’ve seen successful from a lot of different pitchers here, it’s about making pitches. I think it’s unfair to have a pitcher change who he is. If a guy is a legit sinkerballer and he gets ground outs, that works anywhere. I don’t think you have to limit yourself in this ballpark to a certain style. I think that’s unfair. I think you go get talent, develop talent, and let that talent play out on the field.”
Is Major League Baseball now a league focused on the bullpens after the successes of the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs in recent years?
“We’ve seen the importance of bullpens develop over the years. When we (when he was the pitching coach with the Los Angeles Angels) won the World Series in 2002, our starting pitching through that series didn’t go deep into games. That was 14 years ago. You’ve seen World Series won different ways. The last couple of years, you’ve seen it won relying on good pitching. That’s what it is about. It takes the depth of the pitching staff to have a good pitching staff. You need 12 or 13 good guys so there’s not a weak link or two. You need talent. Where this team is headed, that talent’s coming.”