Updated: Davis Knows There's No In-Between for a Closer
Wade Davis got the call from the bullpen to start the ninth inning of the Rockies home opener against the San Diego Padres on Friday night with a one-run lead to protect. Nine pitches into the appearance, he had thrown seven strikes and retired two batters.
And then. ...
The game unraveled. Four batters and 21 pitches later, the Padres had taken an 8-5 lead, and Davis gave way to Tyler Kinley, who struck out Jurickson Profar, but the damage had been done. The Padres held on for an 8-7 victory.
And the Rockies. ...
They were left looking for relief.
Manager Bud Black was diplomatic in his assessment, knowing his primary option to Davis would be Scott Oberg, but he's on the injured list with a lower back issue, and had a live batting practice session Saturday cut short after three batters. The back wasn't the issue, however. Black and trainer Keith Dugger were examining Oberg's wrist.
While he might be ready to be activated soon, would he be ready to immediately step into the ninth-inning role?
Earlier in the day Black was asked about the possibility of Oberg stepping into the closer role, and said it wasn't likely that would be an immediate move.
"When he gets activated there will be a couple of games where he is inserted just to get him in a game," said Black. "He hasn't pitched a whole lot. He hasn't even had the competition of an exhibition game."
As for Davis' situation, Black only said, "Wade is probably done for (Saturday night). SO if there is a save situation in the ninth, it won't be Wade."
Davis was a saving grace in his Rockies debut in 2018, helping them advance into the post-season, beating the Cubs in the NL Wild-Card Game, and facing Milwaukee in the Division Series.
And he started off strong a year ago, but after seeing the Rockies win 70 of his first 83 appearances with the team, the Rockies are 30-23 since May 9, 2019.
Davis has seen his ERA climb from 3.62 through May 7 of last season to 12.00 since.
Friday night's game underscored the struggles.
"His stuff was fine," said Black. "He got two quick outs. Overall his stuff was the same as in Texas, but he didn't locate that fastball to a couple of guys with some power."
It's a puzzle for Davis. He felt good coming into this season. He evaluated last year and saw things he needed to do better. He focused on them in the off-season, during the initial spring training, and in the days leading up to the return to the ballpark.
"There were some habits I developed that weren't really a successful way of doing things," he said on the eve of the delayed season opener at Texas eight days ago. "Some of it was execution, and some of it was mindset. And some of it was being a little uncomfortable and a little over aggressive, not being relaxed, and being able to see the whole game in front of me.
"Those are some of the things I talked a lot about this winter with some of the coaches I dealt with in the past, just trying to relax and go out and have fun. It sounds like a cliche, but it's true."
He converted two save opportunities in Texas. Yes, he gave up one run, but that was when he walked Elvis Andrus with one out, and Andrus stole second and third uncontested -- Davis focusing on getting hitters out -- and then scored on a two-out Joey Gallo infield single, cutting the Rockies lead to 3-2. Davis responded by striking out the left-handed-hitting Rougned Odor to end the game.
And then came a four-day break, two off days and a series in Oakland where the Rockies swept the A's but did not use Davis.
All of which led up to Friday.
And that adds to a growing uncertainty. Even with his struggles, he still has the third-best career conversion rate for a Rockies reliever with at least 30 save opportunities.
He sat a franchise record with 43 saves in 2018, his Rockies debut, compiling an 87.8 percent conversion rate (43 of 49), which is the eighth best in franchise history for a pitcher with at least 20 opportunities.
And his career 85.7 save percentage with the Rockies is the fourth best in franchise history.
But the question in athletics is not "What have you done for me?"
The question in athletics is remains "What can you do for me?"