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The Closer Conundrum: What in the Name of Jose Jimenez Is Going On?

Anthony MastersonCorrespondent IApril 30, 2009

DENVER - MAY 18:  Pitcher Manny Corpas #60 of the Colorado Rockies delivers against the Minnesota Twins during Interleague MLB action at Coors Field on May 18, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Twins 6-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Amid the myriad of problems the Colorado Rockies have encountered so far in this young season, the inconsistency of a supposedly strong bullpen has to grace the top spot on the list.

Coming into the season with the additions of former closer Huston Street and veteran lefty Alan Embree to fortify a bullpen already boasting Manny Corpas, Jason Grilli, and Taylor Buchholz, the bullpen was seen to be the least of the Rockies' worries.

But the problems began before the first pitch was even thrown.

Buchholz went down with an elbow injury at the beginning of spring training and is likely out until at least mid-May.

Even with Buchholz down, it was thought that enough quality arms still remained to pick up the slack until Bucky got himself back on track.

Unfortunately, those assumptions were sorely off-base.

As I type this, only one Rockies regular in the bullpen sports an ERA of less than 5.84.  Jason Grilli (0-1, 1.08) has been a beacon for a bullpen buried under a boatload of innings and a severe lack of consistency.

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Alan Embree has not been able to retire anybody with any kind of regularity, Matt Belisle (1-0, 11.25) has been nothing short of atrocious, and Glendon Rusch, bless his heart, has been trotted out to the mound on numerous occasions out of dire necessity rather than because of his shut-down effectiveness.

Now, all the problems the Rockies have run into do not fall solely on the shoulders of the bullpen. 

The starting rotation, with the exception of Jason Marquis, has not been able to work deep into the game, leaving the bullpen overworked and overtired so early into the season.

The Rockies are tied with the Washington Nationals in one-run losses with five.  It's never good to be tied with the Washington Nationals in anything.

That brings us to the closer conundrum.  Not only an alliterative title for an article on pitching, it is a serious problem for the Rockies as the calendar switches over to May.

Here is how the stats break down for each pitcher thus far:

Manny Corpas:  0-2, 6.10 ERA, 1-2 SV, 17 hits in 10.1 innings pitched

Huston Street:  0-1, 6.10 ERA, 2-2 SV, 13 hits and two home runs in 10.1 IP

Street was handed the closer's role out of camp by Skip Hurdle, though Corpas thoroughly outpitched him for most of the spring.

After a perfect debut, Street struggled a bit, and he hit the wall on a blustery day in Chicago when Hurdle gave him the quick hook after nearly blowing a four-run lead in the span of four Cubbies batters.

After his shellacking in Chicago, the closer's role was handed to Manny Corpas who did nothing to swell the pride of the Blake Street faithful in his first few chances to regain the confidence of both his team and the Coors Field masses.

Case in point, coming into today, Corpas had inexplicably worked in three consecutive games, only one being even remotely close to a save situation, the 4-3 loss to the Padres on Tuesday.

In that game, he came on in the ninth to a 3-3 affair and right away served up a triple to the opposing catcher, and the go-ahead run to a punch-and-judy pinch hitter. 

With Corpas getting the day off today, the bullpen still nearly coughed up a seven-run lead, needing Street to save the day in the ninth. 

Street responded with a 1-2-3 inning, picking up his second save of the season, and creating more questions about who should be taking the ball when the team needs it most.

It seems that Hurdle might have to go to a committee that sticks to the hottest hand in the ninth, even giving Jason Grilli his chances when the moment arises. 

Until someone steps up when given the opportunity, the bullpen phone will be ringing as often as the wringing of Hurdle's hands.

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