Colorado’s pitching misfortune in 2020 has unfolded before our eyes. Scott Oberg missed the entire season due to blood clots in his arm. Peter Lambert’s forearm strain progressed into Tommy John surgery. Jon Gray ended his season in early September with shoulder inflammation. Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee and Wade Davis were unable to complete year three of their three-year deals.
With so many arms taken out of the mix, Colorado was forced into uncharted territory. It was a nightmarish situation for the Rockies to fill those roles without a minor league schedule, and the disrupted rhythm of many suggested an ‘alternate training site’ was far from the norms of Double-A Hartford or Triple-A Albuquerque.
Tommy Doyle made his MLB debut on Wednesday without an appearance above High-A; he kicked off his big league tenure with an 18.00 ERA. Jose Mujica has appeared on a big league mound once: he allowed six runs in 2 2⁄3 innings. Antonio Santos made his first big league start on Friday; he allowed six earned runs and didn’t get out of the first inning.
Santos played in Double-A Hartford for just over a month last year, made eight relief appearances in the Arizona Fall League, and aside from spring training, didn’t pitch again until September. He then waited seven more days for his next appearance, and 17 more until his start on Friday.
In a year where the minor league schedule is nonexistent, there is no such way for Santos, Doyle and Mujica to make themselves ready like they otherwise would. They are left with inflated ERA’s, a sour end to the 2020 season, and a hope to regain some sort of rhythm after the alternate site taxi trips were able to destroy it.
How much is truly their fault?
Take the perennial pitchers out of the equation: 2020 baseball is designed for arms that can manage heavy disruptions to their schedule.
2020 baseball was designed for a pitcher like Tim Melville.
The 30-year-old Melville doesn’t have the long-term outlook of Santos or Ryan Rolison (both 23), but after having played with four big league organizations since 2017 (and two stints with the independent Long Island Ducks), Melville has graced the unpredictable. Perhaps he could grace that turf mound at Metro State and be ready for a call-up better than anyone else.
Baseball America says the CPBL competition is “between high Class A and low Class A.” Melville has shown for a 5.02 ERA in Taiwan this year, but he’s also living on a completely different hemisphere during one of the craziest years ever. Perhaps the familiar Rockies clubhouse would bode well with his 2020 body of work. He held a 4.86 ERA in the bigs a year ago.
Colorado’s ERA among starters ranks 14th out of 30 this year. Pitching woes have primarily been in the bullpen (29th); if Melville has managed all of his twists and turns thus far, perhaps he could roll right into relief duties without hesitation. Daniel Bard earned himself the closer spot at 35, seven years removed from MLB action. What could Melville do at the age of 30, only 12 months removed?
You really can’t predict what will happen next in this game. The usual twists and turns of Melville’s career have continued onward, but his journey set him up for what MLB’s 2020 slate calls for. He continues to fight the interruptions, the altered routines and the unknown, baseball in hand.
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Jesus Tinoco was recalled from the alternate site on Friday, and appeared for his first game in seven days. He went 1 1⁄3 innings, walked two and allowed one earned run. He went from August 29 to September 17 without an appearance, and faced a similar fate from September 18 to September 25.
A different avenue for players to rebuild some rhythm, the Arizona Fall League, has been canceled for 2020. Arizona-based Cronkite News discusses the format of the league, the importance of in-game reps, and what the spring training sites will instead look like during the fall.
Josh Fuentes speaks humbly on his MLB experience thus far. Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post writes how Fuentes is “willing to move around” the diamond.
Fuentes: “If that’s being a utility guy and me playing left and right (field) like I did (Thursday), then that’s what I’ve got to do, as long as I’m in the lineup and playing.”
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