Can we dispense with the “pitchers-don’t-make-good-managers” axiom now, please? It was a lame idea to begin with.

Sure, Bud Black is just three weeks into his managerial career, and he’s still as capable of a brain cramp in October as the next guy, but I’ve already seen enough to say that this skipper gets it. He just plain gets it.

First and foremost, Black gets pitching, which is half the battle, and more than you can say about a good chunk of the man’s peers. Having been a pitcher, and a heady pitcher at that, Black understands the importance of pacing for the long haul, while still endeavoring to get the most out of his men over a period of, say, a month.

After a recent stretch which included two long extra-inning games and a bevy of short outings by San Diego pitchers, Black needed innings eaten by his starters over the weekend. That he got them in each of the three games in Colorado is as much a testament to the skipper’s ability as it is to that of his three starters; Chris Young, Clay Hensley and Greg Maddux. I’m sure Black made what was required of the players more than crystal clear, and they were quite obliging, thank you very much.

Young bounced back from being roughed up in his last start with a fine seven-inning, one-run performance Friday night, beating the Rockies 11-1 at Coors Field. Just what the doctor ordered. Doug Brocail mopped up the eighth and ninth, giving most of bullpen a much needed day off.

Hensley followed with six strong, with Heath Bell, Scott Linebrink and Kevin Cameron each pitching an inning of the Padres 7-3 victory on Saturday. Maddux was a bit shaky in a 4-2 loss Sunday, but he went seven innings, which was huge for the club. Cla Meredith made his only appearance of the series by pitching the eighth, yet again, without allowing a run, and Trevor Hoffman ended up spending the entire weekend as a spectator.

With a scheduled off-day Monday, Black will have negotiated his way around what could have been a greater energy-draining time for his bullpen than it ended up being. No small thing for a rookie skipper. Conclusion? This skipper gets pitching, and by extension, the job as a whole.

Also of import this past weekend was the reduction of scoring in the mile-high altitude of Denver. The Rockies started storing game baseballs in a climate-controlled room five years ago, but for whatever reason, it didn’t take until 2006. Whatever. Let’s be grateful, because it makes for normal baseball. Here’s an interesting paragraph I found via Google, which sums up the change, from Colorado.com:

According to Major League Baseball, in 1999, Coors Field became the most offense-friendly Major League ballpark ever built. That year, the ball left the yard 303 times. To keep the balls from leaving the park so easily, the Rockies have engaged in a few homerun hindering activities. One such example is the use of humidors when storing the team’s baseballs. If that ball coming down the pipe looks a bit bigger and a lot more hittable, it isn’t an optical illusion, it really is. The high altitude has a tendency to expand a baseball. Humidors help mediate this high altitude-induced swelling.

 MLB, much to its credit, instituted baseball storage guidelines this season. For more information, check out this February story by Thomas Harding, from the Rockies website.

— HOWARD COLE

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