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20-year-old Olivarez makes Cactus League debut

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Monday’s contest was a tough six-inning affair for pretty much everybody in purple. Let’s forget about most of it for a brief moment, and focus on the young man that closed it out.

20-year-old Helcris Olivarez has arrived—sort of.

We may not see him in the big leagues for a while, but against the Dodgers on Monday, it was his live fastball and exciting delivery that gave the Rockies a fresh taste of what is to come. “He probably has the highest upside of any of our young pitchers in the minor leagues,” as Bud Black said after the game in Glendale.

Olivarez faced nine hitters, most of them Dodger minor leaguers. His outing wasn’t flawless—let’s face it, Monday was tough for all Rockies pitchers—but Colorado fans were finally able to see that upside for themselves.

His work began in the bottom of the fifth with a left field popout from James Outman, a Dodger non-roster invitee. The first damage of the day ensued from Andy Pages, roping a 1-0 single to left. Elliot Soto had a tough time catching up with Olivarez’s fastball, complete with a broken-bat flyout to center. To finish the frame, Rangel Ravelo grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice.

In his second inning of work, Olivarez fell behind in a handful of at-bats. Tim Federowicz kicked off the bottom of the sixth with a 1-0 flyout to center. Olivarez then fell behind 2-0 to Devin Mann, but worked back to a 3-2 count and a groundout to first base. As pitch count began to climb, Olivarez’s fastball command began to waver. Michael Busch worked a 3-0 count and drew a walk in five pitches, putting LA’s Omar Estévez in prime position to take a hack. Estévez did so on the first pitch, mashing a fastball off the wall in right-center and scoring Busch from first. Zach Reks would then fly out on a 2-2 count, ending the game on pitch number 30 from the lefty.

Olivarez’s mix consists of a fastball, curveball and changeup. Several curveballs got away from him on Monday, so it will be interesting to follow if some regained feel will help him work ahead in the count. We will likely see more of the left-hander this spring, particularly when a lack of arms forced Monday’s game to end after six frames.

We can imagine Olivarez had some newfound adrenaline in his system after being confined to the alternate site in 2020 (and being 20 in his first Cactus League game!), so perhaps that curveball command will restore itself with more in-game work. His fastball can only get tougher to handle with a promising breaking ball, too.

Jeff Aberle wrote on Purple Row last month that Olivarez “wasn’t a highly touted Latin American signing for the Rockies.” He signed out of the central Dominican Republic for $77,000, and before Monday’s exhibition, his pro experience was limited to the Dominican Summer League, the Grand Junction Rockies and the 2020 alternate site. He holds a career 3.22 ERA in 148 1/3 innings of minor league work, and won’t turn 21 until August.

Aberle described Olivarez as a “surprise addition” to the alternate site roster. MLB.com sets his big league ETA for 2023, and with a few strong performances to close out the Cactus League, perhaps that date will come a little sooner.

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Lefty prospect Olivarez shows off ‘live arm’ | Rockies.com

Here’s Thomas Harding’s full report on Olivarez’s outing. “[He] showed the fluid delivery and loose, athletic movements that have the club speaking in excited tones.”

Colorado Rockies spring notebook: Bud Black on how Philip Diehl can make the team | Rox Pile

Phillip Diehl pitched himself a scoreless frame on Sunday in the Cactus League opener. Noah Yingling walks us through the key elements that Diehl must show to make the Opening Day roster, including full insights from Bud Black on Monday morning. “With Phillip, we’re going to have to see, with a critical eye.”

Dodgers pound Rockies while Trevor Bauer and Kenley Jansen pound the strike zone | Los Angeles Times ($)

There was plenty of joy to go around in this Dodger report from the Los Angeles Times, as Trevor Bauer made a shining spring debut against the Rockies and perennial closer Kenley Jansen recorded a scoreless frame of his own. Tony Gonsolin, Blake Treinen and Victor González also pitched in the six-inning shutout.

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