Rockies Mailbag: Why did lefty Ryan Rolison get passed over for a call-up?

Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.

Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

As excited as I was to watch the surprise debut of Julian Fernández, it also left me wondering about Ryan Rolison. Is it at all concerning that Fernández got the nod over Rolison? His numbers haven’t been spectacular in the minors this year. Could that be a factor?

— Matt, East Colfax

Matt, there are a few things to consider.

First, Rolison has not had a great season, posting a 3-2 record and a 5.13 ERA in 11 minor-league starts. At Triple-A Albuquerque, he’s 1-1 with a 6.33 ERA in five starts.

Is Rolison behind the curve, so to speak? Perhaps, but you also have to keep in mind that he underwent emergency surgery for appendicitis early this summer and when he returned he broke his finger in practice. If not for all of that, he might have been the one called up.

Second, Fernandez is a reliever, while Rolison is a starter. It’s a lot easier to “test drive” a reliever for a couple of innings than it is to hand the keys over to a starter. Plus, there is a lot of flexibility when to comes to plugging in a reliever.

All of that, of course, leads to the question as to why the Rockies called up right-handed starter Ryan Feltner from Double-A and started him instead of calling up Rolison. Feltner, who just turned 25, was having an excellent minor-league season before he got called up. In 20 starts between High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford, he was 8-3 with a 2.62 ERA and a 27.53% strikeout rate. Feltner pitched college baseball for Ohio State and was a fourth-round pick in 2018.

Obviously, interim general manager Bill Schmidt and his office decided he was a better choice than Rolison. Feltner, by the way, struggled in his debut, giving up six runs on five hits — including three home runs — walked two, and hit a batter.

Rolison, 24, pitched for Mississippi and was a first-round pick in 2018. Bottom line: the Rockies simply thought that Feltner was ready before Rolison.

After watching starting pitchers’ debuts, like that of Ryan Feltner, I am wondering why the Rockies don’t use novice pitchers from the bullpen, instead of as starters? That way if the novices have the jitters, or have never pitched at Denver altitude, their first appearances might be less challenging.

— Judy Frieman, Denver

Judy, the Rockies, like a lot of teams, have done that in the past. German Marquez, for example, made his major-league debut as a long reliever in September of 2016.

But I have no problem throwing a young starter into the fire. They are starters in the minors and they are used to that routine. They want the challenge.

In the case of Ryan Feltner, for example, I think it would be a bad decision to make a big deal about his poor debut. Yes, point out his mistakes. Yes, teach him what to do better next time. But if the Rockies think he’s a starter, then he’s going to have to deal with the jitters sooner rather than later.

I am interested in how it works describing — and writing about — road games that you and radio are not actually viewing in person? How many monitors do you have at your disposal for angles in the ballparks? Why does AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain never show journalists doing their jobs? Thank you for great coverage the past two years in a tough environment. 

— Robert Emmerling, Limon

Robert, thanks for the question, and for the compliment.

First of all, let me say that anyone who covers baseball would much rather be at the ballpark, watching the game in person. I know it gives me a much better sense of the game. I can always look at replays, be it at home or at the ballpark, but seeing the game unfold in front of me is a big advantage.

When I’m not at Coors Field, I cover games from the TV in my home office and by tracking the action on GameDay (via MLB.com), Baseball Savant and Twitter. I don’t have access to multiple camera angles, but from what I understand, both the radio and TV crews do have multiple screens in their studios in Denver.

I’d like to point out that when you don’t travel, you can’t connect with the players on the road, ask questions, or form relationships. That used to be a big advantage to being a full-time beat writer. But COVID-19 changed everything.

Doing group Zoom interviews has a lot of restrictions, not the least of which is that every question a reporter asks is fair game for everyone else.

We’ll see this winter, during the negotiations for the majors’ new collective bargaining agreement, if the MLB Player’s Union will allow reporters back in the clubhouse. Plus, the economic landscape for newspapers has really changed. We’ll see what happens. Covering baseball is certainly not as much fun as it used to be.

Finally, as to your question about why TV never shows “journalists,” it’s probably because we aren’t a particularly good-looking group! Plus, there’s not much to see. But seriously, I will say this: most TV and radio folks appreciate the job the writers do and recognize the work we put in. Most of them.

When Raimel Tapia got hurt why did they just replace him with Connor Joe? He’s no better. Tapia got hits above all others, so now why do you move him? Doesn’t that seem a little racist? Now, why does he only get to play when people are out? Can you explain how someone loses their spot for an injury? Was he not carrying a great batting average until the coach started not playing him all the time in his spot? I can’t figure why a coach does that and maybe you can answer that question.

— Sharon Maynes, Grand Junction

Sharon, your question is a bit convoluted, but I’ll do my best to answer.

When Tapia sprained his toe and went on the injured list, someone had to replace him, and Joe was the best option. He made the most of his opportunity. That’s the way the pro game works. Now, Joe is on the IL.

There was a time recently when manager Bud Black was playing both Tapia and Joe. His thinking was that the Rockies might use Joe in left field next season and try Tapia in center field. So Joe’s playing time has not really cut into Tapia’s playing time.

Perhaps you are referring to Joe supplanting Tapia in the leadoff spot. There is nothing racist about that. That’s a ridiculous assumption. The truth is, once Joe started getting regular playing time, he proved he was a better hitter than Tapia. As I write this, Joe is hitting .285 with a .379 on-base percentage and a .848 OPS. Tapia is hitting .280 with a .330 on-base percentage and a .707 OPS. In 422 at-bats, Tapia has hit five home runs and driven in 46 runs. In 211 at-bats, Joe has hit eight homers and driven in 35 runs.

Tapia is faster and has swiped 20 bases and been caught five times. Joe has no stolen bases. So Tapia gets the edge there.

It has been a while since I have seen or heard any updates about the upcoming CBA. Have you heard of any progress on this being resolved? Given the mistrust on both sides and both sides’ lack of willingness to compromise, it feels like a strike or lockout is inevitable. Also, have you heard of any major changes that are actually realistic of happening in the CBA like expanded playoffs or the National League adopting the DH, etc?

— Douglas, Denver

Douglas, I’ve been so busy covering the Rockies I haven’t had a lot of time to delve into the CBA negotiations. I can tell you that representatives for Major League Baseball and the MLBPA met face to face in Denver last month. The biggest topics discussed were possible major changes to players’ service time and arbitration. Joel Sherman of the New York Post had an in-depth story on the complex topic last week.

From everything I have heard and read, the National League will likely adopt the DH next season and I do think the playoff will be expanded, perhaps by one team per league.

Negotiations are only just beginning in earnest and they will begin to heat up toward the end of the season. I’m not as pessimistic as you are. I think — I hope — that the pandemic taught both sides that compromise is needed. If there is a strike or a lockout, baseball is really going to be hurt. There are too many entertainment options available and baseball would slide way down the list.

Sorry, not a question, just an observation. What the Mets players should have done was say something like, “Geez, with all that booing from my home crowd, I thought I was in Philadelphia.” It would have been funny, and still would have cast dispersion on the boo-birds that might curb their “enthusiasm.”

— Fred Waiss, Prairie du Chien, Wisc.

Fred, that’s the best suggestion I’ve heard yet! Thanks!

Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

——————————-
[ source ]