Austin Gomber, Chi Chi González, Dereck Rodríguez and Ryan Castellani have each started a spring training game in 2021. Early spring performance may have limited value, but here is where the fifth starter race stands so far:
|Austin Gomber||2/28 @ ARI||2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K|
|Chi Chi González||3/4 @ SEA||2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K|
|Austin Gomber||3/5 vs. MIL||2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K|
|Chi Chi González||2/28 @ ARI (in relief)||1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K|
|Dereck Rodríguez||3/1 @ LAD||2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K|
|Ryan Castellani||3/3 vs. OAK||2* IP, 2 H, 4 ER (+3 unearned), 2 BB, 0 K|
Gomber has been dealing. We have a frontrunner.
In a February press conference, Jeff Bridich said Gomber would “prepare himself as a starter here coming into spring training, but there’s a lot of conversation and relationship building, especially with he and our pitching coaches and Buddy [Black].” Those conversations have given him two starts in two spring appearances, and those new relationships have to be speaking well of his scoreless work.
Without any spring starts from Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jon Gray thus far, each new day in the Cactus League has brought a fresh look at the candidates looking to fill the final spot in the rotation. Among those pitchers:
- González opened the spring with a tough showing (in relief of Gomber) but rebounded in a Thursday start against the Mariners. We can hope his first outing was a mere outlier.
- Rodríguez allowed several hits against a handful of Dodger starters on Monday, and returns to the mound today for spring start number two.
- Castellani started his Cactus League campaign on Wednesday with a hit batter, a walk and a double, and while three Rockies errors in the first two innings did him little favors, four of his seven runs allowed were earned. He may work out of the bullpen in his next outing, as several of the Rockies’ main starters will make their spring debuts next week.
How the Rockies acquired these fifth starter candidates may lead Bud Black even further toward a decision.
- Gomber was the marquee return in the Nolan Arenado deal, and the 27-year-old may be in the prime of his career.
- González (29) was non-tendered by the Rockies this winter, so his valuation may be lower than before.
- Rodríguez (28) saw a similar fate with San Francisco after being DFA’d in August.
While Castellani (24) was Colorado’s fifth starter for most of 2020, his abysmal start on Wednesday did him little favors. The FanGraphs ZiPS projections have Castellani at the bottom of Rockies pitching (by projected WAR) for the second consecutive year.
Jose Mujica and Ryan Rolison have not pitched in a spring training game this year, and both are further candidates for a starting job down the road. Peter Lambert also made 19 starts for the Rockies in 2019, and his Tommy John scar will be one year old in July. Bud Black may elect to pace all three of them; Mujica is the oldest at 24.
Some free agent arms remain on the market, should the Rockies feel a need to heat up the fifth starter race. Bringing in an older arm isn’t exactly a ‘rebuilding’ move, but perhaps a veteran acquisition (a Daniel Bard-like starter?) would benefit everybody. Zack Godley (30) threw a bullpen for over 10 MLB teams last week. Ex-Rockie Tim Melville (30) could be acquired just one year removed from MLB action. At the very least, a veteran pickup could help jump-start the Rockies bullpen after 2020.
The Rockies have three days off in April, so whoever claims the fifth rotation spot may split time as a starter and reliever to begin the year. Assuming Márquez, Freeland, Senzatela and Gray all make starts in the opening four-game set with the Dodgers (April 1-4), an ensuing off day (April 5) may convince Black to skip the fifth starter and keep the first four on standard rest. Colorado has six days off in their first 50 days of the regular season, so using the fifth starter out of the bullpen could become a trend.
Perhaps the best fit for Gomber is in this split-starter role; he is overly prepared after doing it in St. Louis last year. Phillip Diehl’s struggles on Thursday highlighted Colorado’s left-handed bullpen needs (2/3 IP, 5 ER, 3 HR), so the Rockies might be able to capitalize on Gomber’s versatility.
Márquez has been announced as the Sunday starter against the White Sox, while Freeland is scheduled for Monday against the Reds. Gray won’t pitch until at least Thursday, as González and Gomber are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.
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The aforementioned bullpen struggles were on full display Friday afternoon. Veteran relievers Mychal Givens and Carlos Estévez allowed a combined eight earned runs in two innings. It was Givens’ first appearance in the Cactus League, while Estévez opened his spring with a scoreless frame on Wednesday.
At least this happened:
“The 35-year-old Colorado Rockies centerfielder and father of five spoke exclusively to ‘Good Morning America’ in his first interview since opting out of a second consecutive season and revealed the complexities behind the catalysts for his decision to walk away from the diamond.”
Ian Desmond spoke in a Friday interview about his 2021 opt-out decision, highlighting the tremendous things he sets off to accomplish outside of his MLB career. Desmond talks about his involvement as a co-founder of Newtown Connection, an organization partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs. From their site: “Our vision is simple and clear. Use sport as a means to give kids the tools necessary to grow and become the change we are all eager to see.”
The State of California has officially allowed limited attendance for MLB games. All teams in the NL West will have some extent of fans in the stands to begin the 2021 regular season.
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