Scottsdale, Ariz. -- New Colorado Rockies reliever Brian Schlitter has had an interesting spring training, thus far leading the club in appearances through the first week of games and already working in back-to-back contests as something of a mop-up reliever cleaning up other pitchers' messes.
Signed this winter to a minor league deal, the chances of Schlitter starting the season with the Rockies are slim. But pitchers with Major League experience stashed down in Triple-A always seem to pop up in the big leagues now and then, especially for clubs needing the depth and fresh arms.
And Schlitter—he of 78 career Major League appearances over three different seasons—may just fit that bill. Thus far this spring, he's appeared in four games, tossing three innings and letting in just one run, though he has given up four hits and three walks against no strikeouts, and he's allowed several inherited runners to score.
But that's the point of spring; pitchers work on new things, stats don't really matter, and the important goals revolve around preparing for April. As I found out when I spoke to Justin Miller, Schlitter is working this spring just like anybody else.
"I play catch with Schlitter, and his big thing, he’s got a power two-seam and he wants something to go the other way," Miller explained to Purple Row. "He was asking me how I throw my slider, and I was showing him what I was taught by [John Axford]."
Miller, as we've documented in the recent past, turned his career around last summer when he learned new tricks to his slider from former Rockies closer Axford. Now, Miller is paying it forward to Schlitter as the Rockies' newcomer hopes to make an impact in the big leagues one day this summer.
"It used to be a lot bigger, it used to be about 84, 85, and when I started throwing it more like Ax does, it started going 87, 88, even in the 90s," Miller said of his re-invented off speed pitch. "It becomes a lot tougher for hitters to see and adjust to it. With 'Schlitty,' he throws hard too, so if he gets something like that, it’s only something that can better him."
While Schlitter remains on the outside looking in ahead of Opening Day, Miller is quite firmly on the inside track for his own big league job. It seems having the newcomer learn from the known entity can only benefit Schlitter, and in turn, the Rockies' entire pitching staff. From there it's improved depth and better options from which to choose that will allow the Rockies to mix and match come summer time.