DENVER - When I walked into the Rockies clubhouse on Saturday afternoon, there weren't many players around. Jeff Hoffman, the man of the hour, wasn't at his locker, which the team has placed next to Jon Gray's. His new next door neighbor (and near-doppelgänger), however, was available for comment.
I asked last year's highly-touted August call up what advice he would give his past self if he could travel back in time to 2015. Gray told me that he would "just tell myself to ignore all the crazy stuff about the debut and just focus on the game. It was pretty hard to focus on the actual pitching."
After looking at the line from Jeff Hoffman's debut performance last night—six earned runs in four-plus innings pitched before a raucous, unfriendly "home" crowd, it would be easy to wonder whether he should have taken some of Gray's advice. However, according Hoffman, that wasn't the case at all.
His mental state on the mound in his first big league start? "Very comfortable".
"I don't know why that was," he added. "I was expecting to be nervous and jittery."
Perhaps Jon Gray was on to something when he told me that the newest Rockie seems to be handling the nerves of being called up quite well. He detected "no anxiety" from Hoffman.
"He's pretty calm and ready to go."
Indeed, Jeff Hoffman was a picture of calmness as he stood in front of his new locker after the game. An observer wouldn't have been able to deduce from his mood whether his team had just won or lost, or whether he had given up one run or seven.
The four-run third inning? "They found holes. They put good swings on good pitches. Next time I'll try to make them better."
The 469-foot home run? Hoffman conceded that "Bryant took advantage of a bad pitch," but getting taken deep by one of the best players in the game didn't seem to rattle him. It's just a fact of life when you play against the best in the world.
Could the capacity crowd made up of at least 50% Cubs fans have shaken him? Nah. This is what a pitcher like Jeff Hoffman has been waiting for his entire life.
"I feel like the atmosphere was great. Obviously I'd like to see a little more Rockies (fans) show up. But for my first big league game it was exactly what I was expecting. A ton of people. It was loud. It was electric."
One thing that became abundantly clear to me tonight is that Jeff Hoffman has a big league mentality. Another is that he has big league stuff, too. The slider he threw to strike out Jorge Soler in the second inning was scary good. After falling behind 2-0 to Anthony Rizzo in the first inning, he threw him a changeup for a strike before inducing an inning-ending double play ball on a cutter.
While it was far from a good start, Hoffman looked solid on his first trip through the Cubs lineup. It was the second time that got him in trouble. Major league hitters will adjust to you, and Hoffman has to figure out how to adjust to their adjustments. Or, as he put it, "I've just gotta do a better job executing pitches and hopefully come out on top."
That's easier said than done, but if you're worried about Jeff Hoffman's future based on his debut start, you shouldn't be. He certainly isn't. And neither is Jon Gray. "He's a really really good pitcher," Gray said. "If he focuses on the game he'll be fine."
Hoffman need only look to the locker next to him to see what his future might hold if he takes that advice.