SAN DIEGO — Huston Street, in all likelihood, will leave Monday for a rehab assignment. Until he returns in a few weeks, the late-inning relievers need improvement.
In Street's absence, the bullpen as a whole has pitched well, but the Rockies have struggled in high-leverage situations, namely closer Franklin Morales and primary setup man Rafael Betancourt. It's left manager Jim Tracy to piece together the final outs, mixing and matching, rather than relying on an exclusive ninth-inning option.
Morales has blown two saves and lost two other games. He's been maddening because when on, he's unhittable, but when off, he can't execute damage control.
"I feel fine. My focus is there. I know I need to throw more strikes," said Morales, sabotaged by a leadoff walk Tuesday.
Pitching coach Bob Apodaca traced Morales' inconsistency to the role. There's nothing to simulate blaring fire alarms, and at times, Morales has been unable to remain calm.
"There's a lot of stress involved and there's no time to figure things out. For some guys it takes longer, and some never get used to it," Apodaca said. "But the key is that he has to take his 'A' mind game out there every time regardless of the stuff he has."
Betancourt has been battling a mechanical glitch. He was skipped Tuesday in the eighth after allowing runs in three straight outings. Betancourt compared video Wednesday from this season and last and noticed that he's rushing his delivery, leading to misguided, elevated fastballs.
"We had to piece him back together. He will be back out there (in the eighth)," Tracy said. "We need him."
His head clear after multiple clean MRIs on his shoulder, Street has made progress the last month. He will need to make back-to-back appearances in the minor leagues before returning to the Rockies.
It's no longer a certainty that Eric Young Jr. will return to the minors when Brad Hawpe is activated Monday. He has hit well. Given the bench composition, that could place Seth Smith in jeopardy because there is zero chance that a move will be made with Jason Giambi. . . . Reliever Taylor Buchholz (elbow) threw a scoreless inning Wednesday for Modesto. He's eligible to be reinstated June 3. . . . Last year's top pick, Tyler Matzek, is throwing well in Tucson and is getting closer to joining Single-A Asheville.
Troy E. Renck, The Denver Post