Rockies’ closer voted All-Star, loses job
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER – It was a bittersweet week for Brian Fuentes.
The Colorado Rockies reliever became the first closer since the New York Yankees’ Dave Righetti in 1988 to blow four straight save opportunities for his team when he lost half of the games on the club’s eight-game skid through Toronto, Chicago and Houston.
Before the trip, Fuentes had never blown consecutive chances at a save.
So, he lost his job as closer, at least temporarily, as manager Clint Hurdle decided to go with a committee of closers and work in Fuentes when he can in less stressful situations.
Oh, and Fuentes was elected to his third straight All-Star game.
“I’ve had 10 good weeks and one bad week,” he said. “It’s been a real bad week, but that’s the way it goes. Everybody has down times.”
Fuentes converted 20 of his first 22 chances before things fell apart.
Of course, all the All-Star votes were in before the left-hander imploded. He saw his ERA climb from 1.89 to 4.17. His six blown saves on the season were tied for the most in baseball. He blew six saves all last season.
Since his last save against the Yankees on June 21, Fuentes appeared in five games, blowing four saves and collecting four losses. In those five games, the lefty gave up 13 hits and 10 earned runs in just 3 1-3 innings. He’d only given up seven earned runs all season before that stretch.
“It’s a tightrope walking without a safety net,” Hurdle said. “It is what it is and he knows he’s responsible.”
Fuentes still leads all left-handers in saves and remains a dangerous option out of the bullpen no matter what role he takes.
“The players voted him in. They think that highly of him,” said teammate and fellow All-Star Matt Holliday. “I have all the confidence in the world in ‘Tito.’ He’s the same guy every day no matter what’s happened the day before.”
An All-Star for the third consecutive year, Fuentes had been nothing short of solid before hitting the road. Hurdle said Fuentes’ delivery and pitching mechanics aren’t amiss. Maybe it’s just a mental thing, he suggested.
“We had a whole bunch of things go wrong. We just went flat,” Hurdle said. “We had some good bullpen work until it got time to close. The magnification’s on Brian.”
Fuentes, who struggled in a non-save situation just after his demotion by allowing two runs in an inning of mop-up work Sunday at Houston, said his confidence isn’t shaken.
“(The struggles) have been a little bit extended from what I’m used to,” he said. “But I have full confidence that I’ll get back on the horse and I’ll be fine.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.