DENVER -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss said his pitching staff is not quite in "survival mode," but rather in "protection mode."
The team's plan of limiting starters to around 100 pitches and using middle relievers capable of multiple innings has been scrutinized and even criticized, but the Rockies entered Thursday's game against the Nationals second in the National League West, two games behind the D-backs.
The bullpen has taken on a heavy innings load, and has two members on the disabled list -- closer Rafael Betancourt with a right groin issue and righty middle reliever Edgmer Escalona with right elbow inflammation. Weiss also is having to watch the workloads of dependable right-handers Adam Ottavino (0-1, 1.80 ERA in 21 games, 24 1/3 innings), who has been asked to pitch multiple innings, and Matt Belisle (4-2, 3.15 in 31 games, 34 1/3 innings).
The easy answer is for pitchers to be more economical and make their 100 pitches cover six to seven innings, instead of five. But lefty Jeff Francis, Thursday's starter, started his second game back from a left groin injury, lefty Jorge De La Rosa is being watched due to a cut finger he suffered two starts ago, and Saturday starter Tyler Chatwood has missed two starts due to a soft tissue problem in the triceps/elbow area.
"It's tough to consistently ask your bullpen to take care of four innings in a game," Weiss said. "So, it's not like we have to get seven innings, but six. Five, if you do it consistently, can pose a problem."
Weiss said the strain of this time of year is underrated.
"A lot of teams are going through the same things right now, trying to keep their pitching intact as injuries start to pop up in June," Weiss said. "For me, the dog days of the season are June and July, not August and September.
"They're the two middle months of the year. There's no end in sight. August and September, I feel like we're going to be playing for our division. To me, you've played for four months and, physically, it's a grind from that standpoint, but there's something to shoot for."
With a stretch of games in hitters' parks and some Interleague American League games, where the offensive bench is not as big a priority, the Rockies decided to go with a 13th pitcher by designating outfielder Eric Young Jr. for assignment Wednesday and calling up right-handed reliever Chris Volstad.
Rosario has plenty of support amid slump
DENVER -- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario has plenty of support as he attempts to emerge from a recent hitting slump.
Luis Coronado, who coached him as a youth and has helped pretty much all of the current Major Leaguers who hail from Bonao, Dominican Republic, and the surrounding area, has been with him at Coors Field during the current homestand.
Coronado left town Thursday, but Rosario said that his mother, Crucita, is arriving Saturday and bringing Rosario's 7-year-old baby brother. Mom will be staying for a month and a half, and presumably will be making trips to see the Rockies' Rookie League club in Grand Junction, Colo., to see another son, Jario Rosario, who will play catcher.
"Last year, she was here for two months," Rosario said. "I am very happy. I hope that the news helps me, mentally."
Rosario, who has seen his batting average drop 33 points to .234 in the last 11 games, said the visit from Coronado was encouraging.
"He helps me mentally, more than physically, and has been talking to me about how people are pitching me," Rosario said. "He told me some things because he's known me for a long time. But for the most part, we hung out together. He came to Spring Training, and came here for the first time during the regular season.
"He just said keep hitting the ball hard, and at some time you'll get some hits."
The support comes at a time when Rosario needs it, beyond his baseball numbers.
Rosario also said Thursday that he recently underwent a biopsy on the inner part of his elbow and is expecting results Friday.
Rosario said he had a water fungus on his left arm, and out of that came the decision to conduct the biopsy. About three weeks ago, Rosario began playing with a noticeable gauze-type bandage on the area of the biopsy, but he said Thursday the site has almost healed.
The Rockies, citing privacy restrictions, said they could not comment on the issue.
De La Rosa credits Nats' approach after loss
DENVER -- Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa battled for 5 1/3 innings of the Rockies' 5-1 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday night, but said the opponent had the right approach and he made a key mistake.
De La Rosa said Thursday the Nationals simply refused to chase his breaking pitches out of the zone, and left him having to get outs with mainly his fastball and changeup.
The middle finger cut he suffered during his previous start, when he gave up 11 hits in five innings of a no-decision against the Padres, was not a factor, De La Rosa said.
"They had a lot of hitters that I hadn't faced very many times," said De La Rosa, who did not meet with reporters after the game. "They didn't swing at breaking balls. They waited for me to throw the fastball.
"Then I made a mistake with Ryan Zimmerman [on a fifth-inning RBI double that gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead]. I didn't think he was going to swing at my changeup, so I tried to throw it for a strike, and he hit it hard."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.