CHICAGO -- The Rockies' pitching plan is most likely going to become a little less formulaic.
From late June until this week, Colorado used four starters with a pitch limit around 75 -- which usually prevented them from facing a lineup a third time -- and three "piggy-back" pitchers who took turns being available to throw 50 pitches in a game.
Jhoulys Chacin's return from the disabled list this returned the club to a five-man rotation, but for now, the limit remains.
Manager Jim Tracy said Friday he was not in position to discuss the pitching plan in detail. However, all along, the Rockies said they were looking for a pitcher or two who could be given a little longer leash. Chacin -- who went six innings in Monday's 6-2 victory over the Mets -- and veteran lefty Jeff Francis are candidates for higher pitch ceilings.
Granted, the numbers still suggest a pitch limit works in Colorado. Throughout the history of the franchise, seasons of 150 or more innings by a starter are often followed by those of injury or diminished effectiveness. Also, batting averages rise the third time through an order, and they tend to rise dramatically in games at Coors Field -- regardless of the pitcher.
However, the Rockies have to balance the need to preserve starters with the load on the bullpen. Going into Friday, Josh Roenicke led Major League relievers with 73 1/3 innings pitched, and primary setup man Matt Belisle was third with 64 1/3.
Tracy said his focus is still getting the younger pitchers -- rookie lefty Drew Pomeranz and second-year right-handers Alex White and Tyler Chatwood -- to use the pitch limit to learn to be more efficient.
"There are some learning points," Tracy said. "I know that none of these young starters that we have want to be taken out of the game after three innings. I'm OK with that. Pitch better. Pitch more consistently, and I won't take you out."