Strikeouts prove key in Rockies' fast start

Strikeouts prove key in Rockies' fast start

DENVER -- Rockies pitchers entered Wednesday leading the Majors in strikeouts with 91 -- nine more than the second-place Astros.

"Isn't that great?" manager Bud Black said before Wednesday afternoon's game against the Padres. "I love the 'punch.'"

Black, of course, is a former pitcher -- which means he knows enough to understand that this is not happening because of something he has done or said.

"It's more a function of who the guys are," Black said. "We have the ability to strike guys out with our guys' stuff. If you go down the line, I think they're all capable of a big-league punchout in a couple of different ways, which is a good thing."

Most strikeouts have been the work of the bullpen, which leads the Majors with 12.62 strikeouts per nine innings -- 1.6 K/9 greater than the relief staff of the Astros. Mike Dunn, closer Greg Holland and Adam Ottavino were all tied for fourth with eight strikeouts. No other team had more than two relievers with as many K's.

The starters are not bad, either. Their 48 strikeouts were second to the Giants' 55. However, Giants starters were more effective in that they earned more innings -- 56 2/3 to the Rockies' 49 1/3. With righty Tyler Chatwood at 12, and lefty Tyler Anderson and righty Antonio Senzatela at 11 apiece, and with Jon Gray (seven in his first outing, one in his second) not having found his groove, the starters could challenge for the lead all season.

While Black likes the strikeouts, he wants to lower the walks. The 2.93 per nine innings was ninth-lowest among 30 teams, but he found that "a touch high for me, and I'm critical of this -- we can improve on the walks-to-innings-pitched ratio."

Worth noting

• With the Rockies about to embark on a trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles, it's possible bench coach Mike Redmond could relive old days and take his spot behind the plate. On Opening Day in Milwaukee, when Ottavino entered to start the eighth inning and Holland came in to start the ninth, Redmond grabbed a catcher's mitt and caught the first few warmup pitches while Tony Wolters was donning the gear.

Rockies coach warms up Ottavino

"We had our other catcher, Dustin Garneau, down in the bullpen [with Rockies bullpen catcher Aaron Munoz] because we had two guys warming up," said Redmond, who caught 13 seasons in the Majors with three teams. "I just grabbed my glove and went out there.

"I didn't have a mask. I didn't really think anything of it. I just caught a few pitches and threw them back."

So he caught pitchers with hot fastballs and nasty sliders, with no facial protection?

"I started thinking about it, and thought maybe I should have grabbed a mask," Redmond said. "I hadn't caught, other than my kids' bullpens in the offseason.

"It was fun to get back there."

• First baseman Ian Desmond, who suffered a fractured left hand during Spring Training, played catch at Coors Field on Wednesday for the first time since the injury. He'll accompany the team to San Francisco and Los Angeles, and figures to increase baseball activity.

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.