Rockies bring Fogg back into fold
Right-hander recalled from Triple-A; Belisle is designated
DENVER -- Right-handed pitcher Josh Fogg didn't have to worry about feeling comfortable in the Rockies' clubhouse Monday afternoon.
"Different number, different locker, somewhat different set of guys, but it's good to be back in the big leagues, with an organization I want to be in," Fogg said.
Fogg, 32, was a member of the starting rotation when the Rockies won the 2007 National League pennant. But much has happened between then and Monday, when the Rockies purchased his contract from Triple-A Colorado Springs and designated righty reliever Matt Belisle for assignment. Much of what occurred in Fogg's baseball world was not good.
Fogg signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Reds before last season. However, the Reds didn't immediately need a fifth starter, so he began the year in the bullpen. He clearly didn't handle the assignment well.
Fogg went 1-2 with an 8.24 ERA with 23 hits against in 19 2/3 innings in April, when he started three of six appearances. He posted a 13.50 ERA in May, mostly in relief.
"It's completely on me," said Fogg, who also was hit in the face by a line drive from Reds teammate Joey Votto during batting practice in July and suffered groin and back strains late in the year. "It was lack of repetitions last year. I came into Spring Training, left spring having three starts, then got put in the bullpen for a month and a half and didn't pitch [regularly].
"For the past 10 years of my Minor League and big league career, I've been on a five-day rotation. My mechanics were never really a thought. When I got put into the 'pen last year, I wasn't sure what I was doing anymore all of a sudden. I didn't have the repetitions I normally would and probably didn't stay on top of it the way I should have."
Fogg signed with the Rockies just before Spring Training. He wasn't right in Cactus League play. He was throwing across his body, which negated his best pitch -- a cutter that he could have break to either side of the plate. It took regular starts in Colorado Springs (3-1, 5.80 ERA in eight starts) and sessions with Sky Sox pitching coach Chuck Kniffin for him to approach his old mechanics.
The question will be whether Fogg's mechanics will hold up with long-relief work. He joked that he shouldn't have much trouble pitching from the stretch, since he deals with heavy base traffic even when at his best. Nonetheless, the game action will be unpredictable, so he won't have the same practice opportunities that he'd have as a starter.
"I'm going to have to learn it on the fly," Fogg said. "I know what not to do after last year. I think just the work that 'Kniff' and I did in Triple-A, the little key pointers, if I can just keep them in my head, I can work on them every two or three days to make sure they're still there."
Fogg was a key figure in the Rockies' clubhouse in 2006 and 2007, but what was more important was his work at the back of the rotation. He went 11-9 with a 5.49 ERA the first year and 10-9 with a 4.94 ERA the year the team went to the World Series.
The Rockies have jettisoned two relievers who are considered good in the clubhouse, lefty Glendon Rusch and Belisle (1-1, 8.31 ERA in 14 games).
"That's the funny thing about good guys, because every time I was sent out they said I was a good guy," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, who could not take having a roster spot for granted during a career as a utility player (1977-87).
"You like guys that are a good fit in the clubhouse and bring things, no doubt, but you'd like them to perform as well. Josh has been able to do that in the past, and that's the opportunity that's in front of him now. We're very much results oriented now."
Fogg is excited about the challenge of a new role.
"To feel needed is a good feeling," Fogg said. "It makes the game a lot more fun, makes the game a lot more exciting. To be able to hang out with a group of guys that are going to be behind you no matter what happens, that's why you play the game."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.