Charlie Blackmon is in Denver, watching the news and listening to the radio for the latest on the coronavirus pandemic, working out, and just waiting to find out when he gets to play baseball again. Trevor Story is in Texas, missing baseball and building an even greater appreciation for getting to play it for a living, even if he is not playing right now.
Both would have been playing on Thursday in Opening Day against the Padres, but instead both talked to Patrick Saunders about how weird it is not to have Opening Day. Blackmon said it best:
“This is kind of like a rain delay and you just aren’t sure what to do. I’m usually very scheduled and have a specific timeline of events in my day. Now I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants. Just not knowing when we are going to start playing again is tough.”
Story is great on Opening Day. He’s played in four and has three homers. Blackmon went 6-for-6 with three doubles in the Rockies home opener in 2014. Hopefully they will have a chance to have some opener magic sometime in 2020.
Kyle Freeland got on a media conference call earlier this week from where he is hold up in Scottsdale, Ariz. Even though Freeland likely would have pitched Saturday vs. the Padres, don’t worry; he is still throwing to stay ready. However, a lot of those throws are playing fetch with his German Shepherd, Benny.
The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla and MLB.com’s Thomas Harding both wrote about talking with Freeland. Kiszla’s focused on the fan depression and sadness of no Opening Day, as well as how it hurts Freeland’s bid to be the Colorado comeback kid. Freeland is just as eager to get his career back on track after a disastrous 2019 as the fans are ready to watch him do it.
Freeland represents all things Colorado. He was born the same year the Rockies were. He snowboards. He golfs. He shined at Thomas Jefferson on the mound and got busted in Spanish class when he cheered after reading texts from his brother informing him that Kaz Matsui hit a grand slam in Game 2 of the NLDS in 2007.
Where ever you are sheltering in place, you can probably relate to Kiszla’s ending:
“As we ride out the coronavirus together, trying not to go stir crazy by occasionally walking our dogs in sunshine that promises better days ahead, we are all Kyle Freeland. We are Colorado strong. And itching to make a comeback, stronger than ever.”
Harding focused his article on the three things Freeland is doing: social distancing, working out and supporting local business, and connecting.
He’s throwing with Jeff Hoffman, who also stayed in Scottsdale, with plenty of social distancing between them. Additionally, Freeland is also staying in shape by working out at a local gym, which is owned by a friend of his who he can try to support a bit while everything else is closed down. Like all of us, Freeland is also staying sane through connections to other people from his girlfriend, to group messages with other players around the league, and staying busy posting to Twitter and Instagram so he can stay in touch with fans, friends, and family.
Thomas included this quote from Freeland about his social media posts:
“Any way that we can reach out to the fans and give them some content of what we’re doing in our lives while we’re in this holding pattern, to maybe brighten their day, give them something to talk about,” said Freeland, adding that out of boredom he has been playing games on an Xbox he hasn’t used in two years. “Not just myself or the Rockies, [but] guys on teams who are active on social media have been able to reach out to their fan base, and baseball in general.”
This is a nice, heartfelt tribute to the rough day we all had yesterday with the absence of Opening Day from Kevin Henry. It was a sunny day that never got quite as warm as it looked outside, but it still would have been a great day to ditch work, barbecue, and watch the Rockies.
Instead, those of us in Colorado awoke to a blaring alert at 7 a.m. reminding us of a statewide shelter-in-place. We know we are doing the right thing to save our healthcare workers and people’s lives. It’s still just a tough situation. Henry did a great job articulating the void that a non-Opening Day is having on us as Rockies fans and baseball fans. He also gave a nice shoutout in anticipation of PurpleRow’s simulated broadcast.
He also included a great quote from Joe DiMaggio:
“You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.”
While reading, this then makes you sing the Simon and Garfunkel song … “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.” Just brutal.
Henry does end on a bright note. Even though Opening Day didn’t happen yesterday, there will be an Opening Day someday.
The Rockies assigned multiple players to Triple-A Albuquerque on Thursday, including Elias Díaz, Ubaldo Jiménez, Alexander Guillen, and Zac Rosscup. Diaz is a bit of a surprise after an impressive spring training where he hit .429/.458/.571 in 24 plate appearances and seemed to have chemistry with Kyle Freeland. For now, the backup looks to be Drew Butera, who also hit well in spring training (.333/.429/.917) and has more experience with Rockies pitching.
Jiménez seemed likely to start in Triple-A to get back into the groove and grind of baseball again. Guillen had a great season with the Double-A Yard Goats last season with a 1.53 ERA in 37 relief appearances, striking out 91 in just under 77 innings. Rosscup, in his second stint with the Rockies, was signed to a minor league deal over the offseason and was expected to start off in Triple-A.
A separate tweet also showed four other players joining them in Triple-A:
The Rockies announced today that they have optioned right-handed pitchers Ryan Castellani, José Mujica and Jesus Tinoco, as well as outfielder Yonathan Daza, to Triple-A Albuquerque.— Rockies Club Information (@RockiesClubInfo) March 26, 2020
José Mujica, who the Rockies signed in November, had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and struggled in three innings in spring training, posting a 15.00 ERA, 2.667 WHIP, and three walks. Jesus Tinoco pitched 36 innings for the Rockies last year, going 0-3 with a 4.75 ERA and 1.611 WHIp with 28 strikeouts. He tossed four scoreless innings in spring training this year with six strikeouts. Ryan Castellani spent last season in Triple-A and recorded a 5.79 ERA and 2.143 WHIP in 4.2 innings in spring training this year.
Yonathan Daza was in contention for a backup roll in the outfield, but it’s already crowded with the platoon of Ian Desmond, Raimel Tapia, and Sam Hilliard in left field. He went back and forth between Triple-A and the Rockies last season, crushing it in Triple-A and then struggling in the big leagues.
The Denver Post is also running a MLB The Show 20 simulation based on the Rockies original schedule. (They are not posting the games online nor do they have insightful and advanced-metric filled play-by-play commentary from Purple Row’s Ben Kouchnerkavich. Just saying.)
In their Opening Day simulation, Sam Hilliard hit a two-run homer to tie the game at 2-2, but then Ian Desmond followed with a solo shot for the eventual game-winning run in a 3-2 win. In their game, Germán Márquez got the start and pitched six innings, giving up two runs on four hits. That seems great, but the hard part to believe is that Bryan Shaw pitched a scoreless inning, as did Carlos Estévez and Scott Oberg, which is much more believable, to close out the win.
We all know that guy who just lights up your team every time they play. It is maddening and you don’t like that guy. The Athletic selected three guys against each team: that guy, who has insane stats against your team that are way above his regular stats; that guy, bulk, who managed to just destroy your team over a long period of time; and that guy, super-utility, who wasn’t the greatest player but then transformed into the greatest player against your team.
The Athletic picked Marlin Jeff Conine as that guy. He regularly hit doubles and was decent, but then transformed his slugging percentage from .443 against everyone else to .684 against the Rockies and smashed 16 homers in 253 plate appearances. He did a lot of his best work against the Rockies in 1994.
Craig Biggio earned the that guy, bulk against the Rockies. He hit .352/.448/.577 with 20 homers and 23 stolen bases in 586 plate appearances against Colorado. He had two walk-off hits, broke Don Baylor’s career mark of being hit by a pitch 268 times, and recorded his 3,000th hit all against the Rockies.
Current Rockie Chris Owings got the nod for That guy, super-utility as his slugging percentage was .180 higher (.362 vs. .542) and factored into many big Arizona wins over Colorado. That offseason acquisition makes more sense in that light.
There are also numerous Rockies who got praise for being that guy against other teams.
Two Rockies earned recognition for their destruction against the Reds: Corey Dickerson, who hit .354/.394/.734 in 170 plate appearances to be that guy, and Dante Bichette, who hit 20 homers, stole 11 bases, and hit .379/.413/.709 in 286 plate appearances to be that guy, bulk. Troy Tulowitzki is that guy against the Brewers, hitting .406/.467/.722 overall against Milwaukee and even .357/.420/.633 in Milwaukee. Ellis Burks is that guy against the Cardinals. The Blake Street Bomber had 18 bombs and hit .378/.469./.794 in 245 plate appearances against St. Louis.
Neifi Pérez’s performances were noted as that guy, super-utility as Rockie vs. the Cubs, but then he became a Cub and got an honorable mention for hurting the Rockies when he was on other teams.
As a side note, AT&T Rocky Mountain commentator Jeff Huson also got a mention for his ability to blast the Brewers, with a .830 OPS compared to .599 against other opponents.
On March 12, the MLB abruptly ended spring training and made the call to postpone the start of the 2020 season. Before that, in early March, Mile High Sports magazine sent its annual Rockies baseball preview issue to the presses. And it printed. And now it’s coming out.
It takes a lot of work and time to get these editions done and when Mile High Sports completed the issue, which has features on Trevor Story, Ryan McMahon, Tony Wolters, and Colorado’s late great Roy Halladay, was put together and designed when spring training was in full swing and we fully expected to have a regular baseball season. This article explaining the weird situation of having a preview for a non-season is very thoughtful and still asks readers to check it out and support advertisers who have promotions in the magazine that are no longer possible.