Scottsdale, Ariz. -- Carlos Estevez had quite a ride through the Colorado Rockies' minor league system last year. Twelve months ago, he was a 22-year-old righty who had just finished putting up pedestrian numbers at Low-A Asheville (just 8.4 K/9 against 10.5 H/9, with a 1.369 WHIP and a 4.72 ERA in 33 games).
Fourteen lights out games at High-A Modesto—he recorded five wins, five saves, a 1.37 ERA and 11.4 K/9 in the California League—pushed Estevezup to Double-A New Britain. More strikeouts there (43 in 36 innings) went along with 13 saves for the Rock Cats, and the Rockies sent Estevez off to the Arizona Fall League to hone his skills.
Add six saves and 14 more strikeouts in just 11 fall league innings, Estevez now finds himself on the Rockies' 40-man roster with an invite to big league camp early this month.
Now a year older and wiser, Estevez was reminiscent about his fast summer when he spoke to Purple Row in the Rockies' clubhouse in Scottsdale, but he made sure not to rest on his past achievements too strongly.
"It was a really, really good year, but I think I’m good right here where I’m at," Estevez said. "I just want to keep going, you know? I just want to do my job, stay healthy, throw strikes, get outs, and hopefully they send me up and and do my job and help the team win."
In all, Estevez threw 67 innings across 59 appearances last year—both far and away career highs—but he's not feeling the effects of his big year yet this spring. He said he's completely healthy and "nearly 95%" of the way to where he wants to be for the season.
In those 59 appearances and 67 innings last year, Estevez became a strikeout pitcher, logging double digit K/9 totals for the first time in his career while still managing to keep his walks below 2.5 per nine innings. Estevez attributed that to something extremely simple—in fact, something the Rockies are making a focal point with their young pitchers.
"It was all my fastball, how I was spotting it in and out, up and down," Estevez said. "Plus, I got to develop my slider more. I didn’t have much of a breaking ball before, my curve ball was loopy, but now my slider is much better."
As Estevez works on that slider this spring, getting it ready for another year of competition, the prevailing thought is that he'll start the summer in Triple-A. Of course, he's on the 40-man roster, and relievers who put up big strikeout numbers and keep their walks down move quickly—especially ones like Estevez that make a good impression on the big league team early in spring training.
The Dominican righty seems ready to see where he stacks up at the highest levels.
"Competition is just always going to be there," he mused. "You just gotta do what you gotta do, throw strikes, throw down in the zone, and get outs, and we’ll see what they do with me. We’ll find out."