Remember back in March when we were wondering if Kyle Freeland could come back and be the K-Free we all know and love? And we wondered who would round out the starting rotation? We can start talking about those things again! It’s exciting.
In trying to find a silver lining of the delay to the 2020 season, it’s given Freeland more time to repeat his new pitching motion, which has ditched the famed “flamingo pause.” It’s not easy to change muscle memory and ingrain new form, but that’s exactly what Freeland has been working on during baseball’s pause, as he told Thomas Harding on Thursday:
“Once I realized this was going to be a lot longer than we thought, I devoted my time to making sure my mechanics are as clean as possible to continue my work on that, to continue to work on my pitches in bullpens and get them as ready as possible. So far it seems like it’s paid off.”
Freeland said he’s thrown some live batting practice at Coors Field recently and it’s helped to have batters by the plate. At the same time, he’s trying to prepare for a short and intense season and facing batters in real games, the ones that will have no fans and be the #WeirdBaseball we are all trying to mentally prepare for.
“The stakes are extremely high just because of how short this season is going to be. You have to do the best you can to emulate that a crowd is there, keep your mind locked into that intensity and don’t back down,” Freeland said.
The rules are in place. The schedules are coming soon. Now it’s time to think about starting pitching rotations and game plans for success in a 60-game season with a shortened, rebooted spring training .
The Dodgers are already strategizing on how to dive into this late season. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts announce that the Dodgers’ starting rotation will be Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price, Julio Urias, and Alex Wood (almost makes you wish the Rockies could drift into a central division to avoid that lineup) and that each pitcher will throw no more than four innings in their first starts.
This made Kevin Henry start to think about what the Rockies’ pitching plan of attach should be, which was something we were predicting and debating before everything was paused in March. Three starters are for sure in Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, and Jon Gray. Taking the fourth spot is likely Antonio Senzatela, who was rocking in spring training thanks to a new curveball, which he’s been working on as an off-speed pitch to balance out his fastball and slider.
This puts that fifth spot open between Jeff Hoffman, Chi Chi González, Peter Lambert, who’s had time to heal after forearm tightness sidelined him in spring training and was on track to start throwing again in late April or early May, and the longshot, feel-good story of Ubaldo Jiménez. Henry points out that with a short season, it could be really nice to have a few extra options that can be switched into the rotation if someone is struggling. After all, there is normally some time to work out kinks in 162 games, but not in 60. This will also mean it’s key to have effective long-term relievers.
Under the new rules, teams can have 60 players on their rosters, with 30 starting out on the active roster, but two weeks later, it will go down to 28, and then four weeks into the season, it will be 26. There will also be taxi squad of the remaining players, made up of top minor league prospects who will serve as backups who can fill roles when there are injuries or positive COVID-19 tests, as well as slumps and struggles.
Henry also notes that the Dodgers said they will have different players rotate into the DH spot, which means that the Rockies have something in common with the team that’s won seven straight NL West titles.
With teams playing home games at their home stadiums and spring training facilities being closed down due to safety concerns, teams now have to think about where their taxi squads can train, practice, and play intrasquad games to stay ready to join the roster.
John Traub, the Triple-A Isotopes general manager, said that one place could be Isotopes Park, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Traub said, “It would be an option for them to house players in a geographically suitable location with great facilities. If all the particulars can be worked out, our primary obligation is to baseball. It certainly could happen.”
It’s tough times for the MiLB, including the Isotopes who have furloughed most of their staff of 29 full-time employees. Wherever the Colorado satellite team is stationed, it will be staffed by Rockies’ employees.
The Denver Post’s Kyle Newman reported on Tuesday night that it might be more likely that the taxi squad will post up closer to Denver. He said one option is Metro State’s Regency Athletic Complex, which is about one mile away from Coors Field. It doesn’t get much closer than that. Another option is just over 70 miles south at the Rocky Mountain Vibes’ UCHealth Park in Colorado Springs.
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