This one is almost all about pitching. The Rockies have a lot to figure out and as we open up March and Opening Day is now 26 days away, hopefully the pitching picture is starting to come into focus.
As far as Rockies reporter Thomas Harding is concerned, Antonio Senzatela has locked up a spot in the Rockies starting rotation behind the predetermined trio of Germán Márquez, Jon Gray, and Kyle Freeland. This is thanks to his outstanding off-speed pitches that led to a solid three-inning performance Friday where he gave up two hits, one run, one walk and struck out four. Harding also believes that Peter Lambert is leading the race against Jeff Hoffman and Chi Chi González for the fifth and final spot, but also added that Ubaldo Jiménez and rookie Ashton Goudeau are also making a play for roster spots.
Lambert gave up a solo homer to Zach Reks in two otherwise solid innings of work with two strikeouts in Saturday’s 14-2 loss to the Dodgers. That homer is the only hit Lambert has given up this spring in four innings of work with five strikeouts. Thomas notes that Lambert’s pitching efficiently by using all his pitches, really working his fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball. After two scoreless innings, González surrendered three runs in an 11-run fifth inning Dodger barrage.
In non-pitching related news, but in good news on the injury recovery front, Brendan Rodgers took batting practice Saturday and is slated to enter the lineup as a designated hitter on Thursday or Friday.
The Rockies will play again today at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick against the Angles at 1:10 p.m. Mountain Time. Márquez will make the start in his first action of the spring and prospect Ryan Rolison and bullpen veterans Wade Davis, Jake McGee, and Scott Oberg are all expected to throw as well.
Yency Almonte had a spring training day to forget on Saturday and it all happened in one third of an inning where he gave up eight runs on six hits, two of which were home runs, and two walks. It wasn’t an ideal performance for a promising prospect who is out of options and faces being designated for assignment if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster (where the Rockies could only send him to Triple-A if he wasn’t picked up by another team off waivers first).
On the bright side, Bud Black still has confidence in the 25-year-old righty. Kyle Newman reports that Almonte said he is “cleaning up his mechanics” with the hopes of refining his fastball and hard slider. Black’s advice after Saturday was to “let that one go” and put together a better performance next time. His ability to bounce back could be very telling for his future.
Wade Davis is the closer. He thinks he can right the ship from 2019. Bud Black does too, and, as Harding reports, that is why there is no competition for the closer role this spring training.
Harding includes the impressive list that Black has either managed, coached or been teammates with from Dave Righetti to Rod Beck to Trevor Hoffman to Huston Street and Greg Holland. He knows closers and is confident that Davis can recover the four-seam fastball and cutter that have made him the Rockies single season leader in saves (43 in 2018) and made him one of the best closers in the game with the Royals before that. Harding explains that with Davis able to work on his pitches, he can focus on getting back on track, rather than dealing with the stress of fighting for a spot. I hope that works out. We’ll get the first glimpse on Sunday when Davis makes his 2020 Cactus League debut.
Jeff Hoffman knows he needs to deliver. Out of options, Hoffman can’t be sent down to Triple-A anymore. It’s been nearly five years since he arrived in Colorado as part of the Troy Tulowitzki trade, but hasn’t been able to cash in on the potential of his 6-foot-5 frame and ability to notch impressive strikeouts. Last year, it was giving up 21 homers and 34 walks in 70 innings for a 6.80 ERA. So, the 27-year-old righty decided to change everything.
In this detailed feature, Nick Groke covers all the changes Hoffman made to his approach to pitching. Not small tweaks. An entire revamp with a new arm motion, shortened up and simplified, which came to Hoffman as in idea while playing catch. Hoffman studied White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito, who completely changed his arm motion and delivery after the 2018 season and then posted a 14-9 record with a 3.41 ERA and 1.064 WHIP.
Hoffman began the changes late in the 2019 season, but this kind of makeover needs more time. He went to Driveline, the data-driven baseball performance training facility in Washington state. He’s now got to deliver results this spring training. He’s fighting for two spots in the rotation against Antonio Senzatela, Chi Chi González, and Peter Lambert. He could still vie for a place in the bullpen if he proves he can succeed there.
In two games so far, it hasn’t gone especially well as Hoffman’s given up nine hits, four earned runs, one homer, and two walks in 3.2 innings over two games. He has struck out four, but that’s never been the problem.
In this top-11 happy stories list of spring training, the Rockies are responsible for two of them: Ubaldo Jiménez returning to action for the first time since 2017 and doing it for the team that showcased his 2010 All-Star season and Daniel Bard fighting his way back to the big-league mound for the first time since 2013, and coming out of retirement and coaching to do so. The Rockies haven’t been mentioned in many feel-good offseason stories, so we’ll take it.
Notes: Nuñez rakes; Senzatela shows off curve | MLB.com
Dom Nuñez is making an impression so far in spring training. The young catcher is trying to earn a place on the 26-man roster and helped his case by smashing a monster home run Friday night against the Giants. Thomas Harding reports that Nuñez has a smaller leg kick and changed the positioning of his hands to be able to start his swing earlier. He just needs to keep improving his defense.
This is an interesting column from Patrick Saunders where he opens with a story from his Arizona Uber driver, who has lost his love for baseball. Blame the Astros and money and change. As a remedy to try to reignite that love for the game and remind people what there is to love about baseball, Saunders assembled a collection of his favorite quotes about baseball. It’s a fun read.