Rockies create incentive to throw strikes

Rockies create incentive to throw strikes

ST. LOUIS -- After leading the National League in walks the last two seasons, Rockies pitchers have attacked the problem using a tried-and-true motivator.

"Internal competition with incentive-based reward -- that's how we did it," Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster said. "The incentive was money."

Foster and right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis came up with a system involving various pitching categories, such as first-pitch strikes, 1-1 strikes, innings pitched and fewest walks. Prizes come each time through the rotation, and will be dealt at the All-Star break and at season's end.

"It's not anything substantial," Bettis said. "It's kind of just bragging rights for that week, or that turn through the rotation."

It's working. The Rockies entered Wednesday night's game against the Cardinals tied for the fourth-fewest walks in the NL overall, and starters were tied for fifth-fewest.

It began during Spring Training, when each pitcher was handed a printout of how he did in the various categories, compared to the rest of the staff and the score was kept. There was a serious component.

"They told us that was going to determine if we could make the team or not -- if we could throw strikes," said right-handed pitcher Tyler Chatwood said. "The big thing was getting ahead of guys. It's easier to work ahead in the count.

"It's always been like that, but this year, they would print out the numbers and actually show you. It had every category you could ever want. They'd compare you, and when it's a competition, you don't want to be left behind."

It's not exactly unique. The Phillies, for example, demand 50-cent "contributions" for violations of various team-oriented requirements. The money isn't much, but it is a fun little reminder. Bettis said it's not the incentive that's led to improvement but the underlying mindset.

"It comes from within," Bettis said. "We all know what our job is. It came some from the coaching staff, but it's more so that our staff bought in."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.