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New delivery, new Jeff Hoffman? And Nolan arrives today

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Rockies news and links for Sunday, February 16, 2020

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Hoffman hoping new look delivers breakthrough | MLB.com

Ever since Jeff Hoffman showed up as a Rockie, he’s been highly touted as a promising talent (he was a first-round draft pick in 2014 after all) worthy to be a piece of the trade for Troy Tulowitzki. Since his debut in 2016, he’s struggled to turn that promise into results, especially last year when he gave home runs like a pregame batting practice coach (21 homers in 70 innings, not to mention 34 walks with an ERA of 6.56, but he did have 68 strikeouts).

Now the 6-foot-5 Hoffman is shortening his delivery, hoping for a faster release and hopefully better location of his pitches. He started trying to shorten the delivery at the end of last year with a little success, posting a 4.61 ERA in 13.6 innings in his last three starts with five homers and 10 strikeouts. However, it takes time to erase a lifetime of muscle memory and natural motion. Now in spring training, the new delivery seems to have taken hold. Thomas Harding put it this way:

“Compare his bullpen sessions in early Spring Training to those he threw at this time last year, and it’s the difference between basketball and football. That’s how much different Hoffman’s motion from glove to throwing position has become. A sweep well below the waist before circling to throwing position has become a much shorter rise and lift.”

Hoffman is out of options to the minors, so the Rockies need to see him earn a spot in the starting rotation, or at least be a go-to for long relief in the bullpen. He’s definitely one to watch as the musical-chairs-style-elimination game of seeing what pitchers end up with a seat on the roster and who doesn’t begins.

Key Rockies players back Nolan Arenado, say controversy won’t affect team | Denver Post ($)

If you ask Bud Black, Trevor Story, Kyle Freeland, or Jon Gray about what the team cares about going into the 2020 season, the answer is unanimous: They want to win, they know Nolan Arenado wants to win, and they are not worried about offseason drama between Jeff Bridich and Colorado’s franchise player.

The manager and three players all responded to questions about the rift and concerns about what it could do to the organization. They all back Arenado’s drive and insatiable desire to win. Nothing in this article really broke any news because it was the same comments from Rockies Fest and Thomas Harding posted a similar article to this Patrick Saunders one on Saturday. It is definitely another reminder that the players and Black are much better at talking to the media, and supporting each other for that matter, than Bridich.

All position players report to spring training today, and that includes Arenado, despite all those pundit projects of an inevitable trade.

Yankees To Sign Chad Bettis | MLB Trade Rumors

More and more, it’s looking like the Rockies are a farm team for the Yankees.

On Saturday, Chad Bettis followed in the footsteps of DJ LaMahieu, Adam Ottavino, and Mike Tauchman by signed a deal with the Yankees. It’s a minor-league contract and invite for spring training. If the former Rockie, who was let go in October after struggling as a reliever with a 6.08 ERA in 2019, makes the active roster, he could earn up to $1.5 million and another $2 million in incentives.

Bettis was a fan favorite and national inspiration after overcoming testicular cancer and pitching an unforgettable seven scoreless innings against the Braves in his first game back on Aug. 14, 2017. The 30-year-old, who finished his seven-year Rockies career with 31-31 record and a 5.12 ERA in 162 appearances, has spent most of the offseason as a free agent. I don’t care who he plays for, I’m a Bettis fan for life and hoping he can find success in the bullpen or as rotation depth in New York. It’s nice to know he’ll have some familiar faces on his side in spring training.

Colorado Rockies get pair of early ESPN appearances | Rox Pile

A few days after AT&T SportsNet announced it will be broadcasting 150 Rockies games in 2020, ESPN announced that Colorado will get two nationally-televised games in its schedule that only goes through the first half of the season. The first will be a NL West showdown against the Dodgers at Coors Field on Memorial Day (2 p.m. Mountain time) and the second is against the Rockies’ 2018 playoff foe Brewers on Thursday, July 9 in Milwaukee (6 p.m. MT). No Sunday Night Baseball Games so far and the Rockies’ likelihood of more national broadcasts will largely depend on if they are halfway to Dick Monfort’s forecasted 94-win mark at the All-Star break.

Rockies catcher Tony Wolters, the ultimate teammate, has a Gold Glove goal | Denver Post ($)

After losing his arbitration hearing earlier this week and being subject to media calls for the Rockies to add a veteran catcher or another Major League catcher all offseason, Tony Wolters is still the starting catcher going into 2020. If you ask his teammates, they wouldn’t want it any other way. This feature by Patrick Saunders not only highlights Wolters’s positive attitude and determination to keep improving in every aspect of his game from game-calling to defense to leadership, but also is loaded with complements from Bud Black, who say everybody just really likes Tony, and Jon Gray. Gray had an especially telling quote:

“Tony’s the best teammate and I’ve seen so much growth. He’s so hands-on about everything. It’s almost like when we’re on the mound, he’s on the mound with us … He probably has a better idea about pitching than I do.”

The other great nugget from the piece, which is similar to Nick Groke’s feature from The Athletic earlier this week, is from Wolters himself. He had four passed balls last year. He wants zero this year. Instead, he wants a Golden Glove.

Last year Wolters wanted to improve at the plate and he went from a .170 average in 2018 to .262 in 2019. Cutting down on four passed balls seems doable in perspective. He did gun down runners 68.8 percent of the time last year, which was second best in the National League.

Last year, Wolters appeared in 112 games, which is tied with Yorvit Torrealba for second most, only trailing Joe Girardi’s 122 in 1995. Wolters figures to be behind the plate the vast majority of the season this year. Black says he would play 140 if he let him.

Why the Rockies will turn to Wade Davis as their closer again in 2020 and what that means for their bullpen | The Athletic ($)

Bud Black’s comments don’t leave much to the imagination. Unless Wade Davis is hurt or something really weird happens, he is starting the season as the Rockies closer. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding also predicted this and we’ve known that it is coming, despite having Scott Oberg for competition.

Rockies Insider: Players with Colorado ties worth tracking in the Cactus League | Denver Post ($)

While Rockies fans have plenty to be looking at in spring training this year from the hyped bounce-back performances to who will start in left field to who will round out the starting rotation and much more, there are several former Rockies in action in the Cactus League to keep an eye on as well. This article also tracks players who grew up in Colorado, or at least played high school in the Centennial State, but I’m just focusing on the former Rockies here.

It’s weird to have multiple ex-Rockies on a division rival squad, but the Giants have three in pitchers Tyler Anderson and Rico Garcia, and infielder Cristhian Adames. The fellow NL West Padres still have former Rockies hurler in Drew Pomeranz.

The Cubs are suiting up some former Rockies in veterans Rex Brothers and Daniel Descalso, as well as the more recent prospect Noel Cuevas. Carlos Gonzalez signed a minor league deal with Seattle, who also has former catcher Tom Murphy.

It’s always interesting, and sometimes depressing, to see how former pitchers who struggled to find their grove in Colorado, can thrive elsewhere. These cases add more fuel to the fire of Coors Field being a career death trap for pitchers, or can cause speculation on quality of coaching and development in the organization.

If ‘19 was good to Bichette, get ready for ‘20 | MLB.com

This is a cool feature on the swing of Bo Bichette, son of Rockies’ great Dante Bichette, who is third all-time in team history with 826 RBI and sixth with 201 home runs. Bo made a splash as a rookie in 2019, hitting 11 homers with a .311 average in 46 games. The 21-year-old shortstop will now see if he can keep those numbers up in his sophomore campaign.