Scottsdale, Ariz. -- David Hale is a new man walking around the Rockies' clubhouse this spring. Whereas last March he found himself six weeks into a stint with a new organization after being abruptly traded, the righty now finds himself in a much better place, both mentally and physically, one year later.
"It’s so much nicer being in spring training knowing guys, and being relaxed enough that you know you can talk to people," Hale told Purple Row of his second spring training with the Rockies. "I changed a whole lot of mechanical stuff last offseason, and then we worked on it all during the season last year which was tough, but this year I’ve got a second chance and I’m really happy to be back and they seem really happy about it."
Hale's 2015 season wasn't easy in many regards; on the field, he did some things very well for the Rockies—he walked just 2.3 hitters per nine innings—but ended up being hit hard at times, and finished 5-5 with a 6.09 ERA in 17 games (12 starts). Off the field, Hale not only had to deal with the aftermath of the late winter trade itself, but the Marietta, Georgia native also had to quickly come to grips with leaving behind his hometown team and life for a new city across the country.
"It was difficult, I didn’t realize how nice I had it living in my own house, even having family at the games and everything," Hale admitted of the adjustment from Atlanta. "Bouncing back and forth from city to city is tough, just taking care of the logistics like bills, but you learn quickly going back and forth that you’ve got to put it all behind you and focus on baseball, because that’s the only consistent thing."
But even baseball was somewhat inconsistent for Hale last summer with the Rockies. Not only did he bounce back and forth between Denver and Albuquerque, he also dealt with minor injuries along the way—he's dealing with another this week—all the while making sweeping changes to his approach on the mound. More than anything, though, Hale noticed mental challenges over the last year in Colorado, and he had to fight tendencies to overcorrect.
"The toughest thing for me was having confidence in my pitches," Hale said. "You go up to Colorado and the ball moves less, that’s just the way it is. I’d be trying to make it move, and when you try to force it to move, you’re actually doing the opposite."
Now, Hale's spring challenge is to stay within himself enough to trust his stuff. After all, he surmised, there is a reason the Rockies traded for him in the first place.
"I spent a lot of time this offseason learning exactly where I get the most movement from, and I’ve just got to stick with it," Hale said. "It’s gonna move less, but don’t try to make it move any more, that’s just where I get my best sink and I need to keep it that way."
So far this spring, even with the minor hamstring injury, Hale's received rave reviews from the Rockies' catching corps.
"Catchers have said it's moving a lot more, and my slider is a lot sharper," Hale said. "I’m just behind the ball longer instead of rotating it. When you’re behind the ball it’s sharper and when you rotate it, it’s sweeping, so that’s going to help hopefully."
Admittedly, Hale is probably on the outside looking in for a spot on the 25-man roster to open the season next month, but the righty hasn't let himself lose track of what really matters for his longevity and success in baseball.
"I think [Opening Day is] everybody’s goal, but I can only pitch as well as I can," Hale concluded. "That’s my goal, stick with the mechanics that we spent so long working on last year, and my ball is moving more than ever, so I’ve just got to stick with that and pitch the best that I can, and let everything fall into place."