PITTSBURGH -- Pitching at Triple-A Colorado Springs wasn't as daunting as right-hander Zach Putnam thought it would be.Putnam, 24, went 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA with 11 strikeouts to three walks in five appearances for the Sky Sox. The effectiveness earned him a promotion to the Rockies for Wednesday afternoon's doubleheader against the Pirates at PNC Park. Putnam made his Rockies debut in the second game of the doubleheader, a 5-1 loss to the Pirates. Putnam gave up one hit while pitching a scoreless sixth. After the game, however, he was returned to Colorado Springs. The Rockies acquired Putnam from the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Kevin Slowey during the winter. Putnam had not pitched at Security Service Field or in the Pacific Coast League, but he had heard the stories.
"I think the humidor that they put in at Colorado Springs has helped with a lot of guys, not just me," Putnam said. "It wasn't quite as bad as I was preparing myself for. I was glad to do well there and come up here to try to help these guys."A rule under the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to call up a 26th player for a doubleheader, but the roster must be returned to 25 before the next game. Sending Putnam down has the Rockies at the proper limit for Friday night's opener of a three-game set with the Mets. Putnam went 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA in eight games with the Indians last year. The experience increased his readiness for his chance with the Rockies. "From a performance standpoint, keeping the ball down was an issue with me last year, and that was the biggest thing I learned in my time in the big leagues," Putnam said. "This year, I'm hitting the bottom of the strike zone. But more than anything, pitching in the big leagues, the anxiety, stress and all the different emotions, I kind of got that out of the way."
Brothers wants to become model of efficiency
PITTSBURGH -- Left-handed reliever Rex Brothers spent the long moments after the Rockies' 5-4 loss to the Pirates -- partly brought on by his seventh-inning meltdown -- staring into his locker as Colorado general manager Dan O'Dowd spoke encouraging words.All four batters Brothers faced reached, and two of them scored on Andrew McCutchen's double. Brothers' struggles prevented starting pitcher Jamie Moyer from earning a win for his six strong innings. Brothers has struggled for a while now, having given up three runs, seven hits and four walks in just three innings over his last five appearances. He has not retired any of the six batters he has faced in his last two outings. But Wednesday morning, before the opener of a doubleheader with the Pirates, Brothers, 24, smiled and said he was ready to return to the effective, hard thrower he has been much of the time since being called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs last June 4. "I haven't done very well for a week and a half now, but I've just got to start making pitches -- it's as simple as that," Brothers said. "It'll come sooner than later. That's the nature of this game. It can be cruel sometimes and just as good in the others. "After I talked to several people last night, I kind of put things into perspective. I was trying to force the issue and correct things in the wrong way. Today's a new day." Brothers possesses a fastball capable of reaching 97 mph, but he is overthrowing early and falling behind in counts. Four of the eight first batters he has faced this season have reached. Brothers has given up a .400 average to right-handed batters and .286 to left-handers, but when he's right, it doesn't matter from which side the hitter swings. "I wouldn't say it's mechanical; it's upstairs," Brothers said. Manager Jim Tracy expressed confidence that Brothers will calm down and control his recent habit of overthrowing. The only break Tracy is giving him is having Matt Belisle shift to the eighth inning, with Brothers working the seventh. "It's more a get-over-the-hump type thing, and we'll be where we need to be with him," Tracy said.
Veteran backstop Hernandez isn't slowing down
PITTSBURGH -- After most games, Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez's left arm is so heavily wrapped that it looks as if he's going to a costume contest as either a mummy or a hockey goalie.So naturally, when he was smoked with a pitch by the Pirates' Juan Cruz in the seventh inning on Tuesday, the ball hit him smack in the upper left arm. That's just the way it is for a catcher. The bumps and bruises cover much of his body, but it seems each year, one spot has a target. "It's been hit a few times," Hernandez said with a wink and a smile Wednesday morning, before sitting out the first game of a doubleheader against the Pirates. "When it gets hit, it's already hit, so it doesn't hurt as much. "I get hit there with a bat once -- I was trying to set up inside. When that happens, you try to act like there's no pain. It's too hard to say how many balls have hit me there. Too many." The bruises, along with the mental grind of catching, usually reduce a catcher to a pedestrian offensive player. That's not the case with Hernandez, 35, who entered Wednesday hitting .268 with two home runs and six RBIs. It's enough offensive production for the bottom part of the Rockies' order. In his last two seasons, with the Reds, Hernandez has finished at .282 and .297. Granted, he dropped below 100 games played each year, but it's not always normal for a catcher to improve offensively late in his career. "He's very calm -- he's got low highs, he's got high lows, so he's right in the middle," Rockies catching coach Jerry Weinstein said. "He does not panic, has a real even demeanor. It helps our pitchers, and it helps him." Cognizant of the mileage on Hernandez's body and realizing playing in and out of Colorado's atmospheric conditions can take a toll on players, the Rockies are using rookie Wilin Rosario more than teams usually use backup catchers. Hernandez said playing in Colorado has not created special wear and tear at this point. "I'm a catcher, so I'm not really running around as much," Hernandez said. "I'm squatting, but not moving as much as other players, so it's not as bad."
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.