One of the glaring problems the Colorado Rockies have had over the years is a severe lack of left-handed pitching, specifically in the reliever department. Kyle Freeland is the lone full-time lefty starting pitcher followed by Austin Gomber who fits into a murky swing-man category now with his sights set on the rotation. Seemingly to have finally noticed the problem, the Rockies have gone about filling up the arm barn depth, giving us one of the more intriguing storylines to watch during Spring Training.
The most notable addition was Brent Suter. The former Milwaukee Brewer was claimed off waivers prior to the non-tender deadline and slots into a critical backend of the bullpen role. He’s had a successful career as a pitcher, with 2022 being his first season purely as a reliever. He has a career 3.51 ERA in 394 2⁄3 innings of work and while he doesn’t have huge strikeout numbers with high velocities, he makes up for it with craftiness and a unique approach.
Suter has also been working to refine his slider with a new grip, which he believes will be instrumental in bouncing back in 2023 with the Rockies. Along with Lucas Gilbreath, Suter is being counted on helping the Rockies not only against lefties but in critical moments in any game.
Looking to find an old player with a hope to rebound with a big league team, the Rockies brought in Fernando Abad. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2002 by the Houston Astros, Abad debuted in 2010, thus marking the start of a 10-year MLB career. During his big league experience, he has spent time with the Astros, Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, and most recently with the Baltimore Orioles in 2021.
Abad signed with the Seattle Mariners and spent the entire 2022 season down in Triple-A with the Tacoma Rainiers. In 43 innings of relief, Abad turned in a quality season at age 36 with a 3.56 ERA and 32 strikeouts with 12 walks. He brings a veteran presence to the bullpen along with a historical track record of success. However, Abad doesn’t have the advantage of youth and it on his last legs at this point in his career.
Initially drafted by the New York Yankees in 2015, Josh Rogers is an interesting arm that the Rockies added. He has just 30 big league games over four seasons under his belt, with the bulk of that total coming in 2022 with the Nationals. In 16 games last season, including three starts, Rogers posted a 5.13 ERA with 12 strikeouts and 11 walks. While the success hasn’t been there yet, Rogers still has plenty of upside if he can figure things out.
Rogers isn’t throwing fireballs out on the mound as his fastball averages 90 mph, however, it is essential in helping set up his slider and sweeper, arguably his best pitches. His pitch mix is deceptive and induces weak contact, which is right up the Rockies’ alley. If he can hone his control, he’ll be a helpful piece that can also start if needed.
When Logan Allen was traded to Cleveland in 2019, there were hopes that he would emerge as an elite starter with an organization known for developing pitching. However, after a strong performance in Spring Training prior to the 2021 season that landed him an Opening Day roster spot, Allen struggled with command. He was eventually claimed off waivers by the Orioles in May 2022, where the struggles continued until the Rockies claimed in later that season.
Allen made six starts in Triple-A Albuquerque last season, posting a 6.43 ERA with 25 strikeouts and nine walks. So, it stands to reason that Allen is likely seen as a starter first and a reliever second with the Rockies, though his future may lean toward the bullpen. He primarily works with a fastball and slider combo with a few other pitches mixed in, but he knows how to miss bats when everything is working. Should something happen to someone in the rotation, Allen may get a first look if he proves well enough in Spring Training and in Albuquerque.
2022 was a less-than-stellar season for Ty Blach. After a strong start through his first couple of outings, things quickly derailed for Blach and he found himself traveling between Triple-A Albuquerque and Denver for most of the season. Much like Rogers and Allen, Blach fits more into a reliever role with emergency starter capabilities. Initially outrighted off the roster, it wasn’t long before the Denver local re-signed with the team on a minor league deal.
The team’s familiarity with Blach makes him a low-risk and helpful addition to the organization. At his best, Blach is a strike-thrower that works quickly and induces weak contact. At his worst, he gives up a lot of hits that quickly add up and the next thing you know three runs come across to score. Still, he’s a helpful depth piece that can slot in nicely if someone goes down with an injury.
It’s nice to see the Rockies try to address a shortcoming. Bud Black has been asking for southpaw help for years and now he’s got a number of veterans and unrefined arms to assess now. If nothing else, it’s good to have options and backups if/when they are needed and I’m interested to see how everything pans out in Spring Training.
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This is a fairly interesting little story about Zac Veen and his connection to music. It gives him rhythm and tempo that have helped him find his groove. Veen is showing plenty of promise this spring, and it’s going to be interesting to see his development for the 2023 season. I’m sure many of us will be singing his tune throughout the year.
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