It was a difficult decision.
One that couldn’t be made until four simple days before Opening Day.
But nonetheless, it’s becoming a reoccurring decision for the Rockies organization lately.
I’m talking about the Rockies’ closer—the ninth inning guy that goes in with more pressure on his shoulders than anyone else.
Much like a pinch hitter, the closer enters the game after sitting for the first eight innings, waiting for his opportunity to shine.
When he does it right, he’s seen as a hero, a firefighter, and he’s given the accolade of a “save.”
When he doesn’t do it right, he’s often booed, and seen as the reason the team’s failure.
The Rockies named Huston Street as the club’s 2009 starter (at least for now) Thursday afternoon. Street was awarded the position over Manny Corpas, who won the hearts of Rockies’ fans during the playoff run in late 2007.
Corpas was lights out after taking over as the Rockies’ closer when then-closer Brian Fuentes blew four consecutive saves opportunities in late June.
The native of Panama had an ERA of 1.02 after the switch, and successfully saved 19 of his 20 opportunities. His only blown save was in the World Series.
After posting these numbers, Corpas was given the opportunity to close the 2008 season. However, once again, a series of struggles early in the season caused manager Clint Hurdle to revert back to Fuentes, who closed the remainder of the season before filing for free agency and signing with the Los Angeles Angels.
Corpas then seemed to be the Rockies’ 2009 closer, and even when Street was acquired from the Athletics in a trade for Matt Holliday, many fans believed he would still win the spot.
In roughly the same amount of innings pitched in spring training, Corpas allowed fewer hits (seven to 11), fewer earned runs (one to six), more strikeouts (five to four), and a lower ERA (1.00 to 5.23).
However, Street’s statistics can be read misleadingly due to the fact that he was still overcoming a quadriceps injury in early March. Take away Street’s first two appearances, and in his final eight, he gave up just one run, a single hit and zero walks.
Many fans are upset and have multiple speculations on why Street was given the role over Corpas.
One theory is to make the controversial offseason trade sending Holliday to the Athletics look better.
The three players the Rockies received in return for Holliday include Street, starting pitcher Greg Smith and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Smith and Gonzalez will both be starting the year in Colorado Springs playing Triple-A ball, while some say that Street was given the closer role so that at least one of the players featured in the trade would be seen as a major factor in 2009.
Another possibility is Street’s experience.
In his four-year career, Street is 21-12 with a 2.88 ERA. In addition, the former A’s closer has 94 saves on his resume. Street has missed time each of the last two seasons, however, due to injuries.
Despite the front office’s decisions sometimes, I do believe that this team’s intentions are to put the best group of players onto the field each day and to win ballgames.
Both pitchers will still get plenty of experience, with Corpas currently being the set-up man and Street closing it out.
The way I see it, the Rockies have two solid late-inning pitchers that are both capable of closing ballgames. Whether it is Street or Corpas that gets it done, having both pitchers in the final two innings of a game should be a very valuable asset to the club and very intimidating to opposing teams.
And for you Corpas supporters, having him not being named the opening day closer might not be that bad of a thing. If history says anything, he may regain his role. The last two years, the backup has been the one that ends up closing games by the end of the year.
It’s a long, 162-game season. Things can change. But either way, the Rockies have a reliable duo that they can count on.
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