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The Rockies rotation is in a difficult place

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, June 8th, 2023

At the beginning of the season the belief was that the 2023 Colorado Rockies would live or die by their starting rotation. After 63 regular season games, it would appear they have mostly died by it. The Rockies have one of the worst starting units in the league, having pitched the fewest innings of all 30 teams and owning the third worst team ERA. The Rockies rotation has given up the third most runs, earned runs, and home runs. They’ve struck out the fewest batters in the league. They have the third worst WHIP and the second highest opposing batting average in all of baseball. All of this has “helped” the Rockies to a losing record and an extremely over-worked bullpen where Jake Bird, Brent Suter, and Justin Lawrence are three of the most used relievers in baseball.

To be fair, the Rockies have had to deal with a ton of injuries and adversity when it comes to their starting rotation. Only two members of the Opening Week rotation are left standing in Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber.

Multiple members of the rotation were shut down with issues in their pitching elbows and/or forearms. Germán Márquez required Tommy John Surgery, and Antonio Senzatela—who had just returned from his ACL tear—will miss multiple months due to his elbow strain. Noah Davis has been reinstated from the IL, but needs to be built back up down with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes before returning to the rotation. Ryan Feltner took a scary comeback line drive to the head and will likely miss the rest of the season as he recovers.

Outside of Freeland and Gomber, the only member of the initial rotation not shut down with injury is José Ureña... who was designated for assignment in late April after five awful starts.

Rockies Starting Pitchers Used - 2023

Pitcher (Roster Status) GS G IP rWAR ERA FIP ERA+ QS Starts over 5.0 IP Starts over 4.0 IP Starts over 3.0 IP
Pitcher (Roster Status) GS G IP rWAR ERA FIP ERA+ QS Starts over 5.0 IP Starts over 4.0 IP Starts over 3.0 IP
Kyle Freeland (Active) 13 13 71.0 1.5 4.06 4.96 125 7 9 9 11
Austin Gomber (Active) 12 12 56.2 -0.3 6.99 6.25 72 4 5 8 10
Ryan Feltner (IL 60) 8 8 35.1 0.1 5.86 4.36 87 1 3 5 7
Connor Seabold (Active) 7 14 47.2 0.2 5.10 5.13 99 1 2 6 7
José Ureña (DFA) 5 5 18.1 -0.7 9.82 10.97 52 0 0 1 3
Germán Márquez (IL 60) 4 4 20.0 0.3 4.95 4.63 103 1 2 3 4
Chase Anderson (Active) 4 4 21.2 1.3 2.08 5.13 246 1 2 4 4
Karl Kauffmann (Triple-A) 3 3 12.2 -0.6 11.37 7.15 45 0 0 2 3
Noah Davis (Triple-A) 3 3 11.2 -0.1 6.17 3.88 84 0 0 2 2
Dinelson Lamet (Active) 2 14 16.2 -1.1 12.42 5.02 41 0 0 0 0
Antonio Senzatela (IL 15) 2 2 7.2 0.1 4.70 8.11 111 0 0 1 1

The Rockies have had to try and fill a lot of holes in their rotation because of this, but unfortunately they aren’t seeing a lot of success. Outside of Freeland and Gomber, not a single Rockies starter has more than one quality start. Of the 11 starters used, five of them don’t have a single quality start.

Very few starters are also making it past five innings of work, although they are generally making it through at least four innings. A large contributor to this is how many members of the rotation began the season in the bullpen. Connor Seabold, Chase Anderson, and Dinelson Lamet all started the year as relievers but have been called into active starting duty. However, shorter starts aren’t doing much to help a taxed bullpen.

After a bumpy beginning of the season in which he landed on the IL, Lamet was stretched back into a starter like he originally had been with the San Diego Padres, but has failed to make it past three innings so far. Meanwhile, prospect Karl Kauffmann was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque to make multiple starts, but has unfortunately shown he isn’t quite big league ready.

Thankfully it isn’t all bad. Despite two difficult outings against the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates, Kyle Freeland has really stepped up as the leader of the rotation. Freeland has gone at least five innings in 11 of his 13 starts this season and leads the club in quality starts with seven.

Chase Anderson has been a boon to the Rockies pitching staff. After the Rockies claimed him off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays he needed to be stretched back out, but he has worked five or more innings in each of his four starts. While he is admittedly over-performing with a 2.08 ERA to 5.13 FIP, he has undoubtedly been of great value to the team. The 35-year old righty hasn’t worked primarily as a starter since 2019 with the MIlwaukee Brewers.

Former Boston Red Sox top prospect Connor Seabold has also been intriguing. Seabold started the season in the bullpen but has now made the fourth most starts of the Rockies’ pitching staff with seven. He has definitely seen his fair share of difficult outings, but appears to be coming into form with his last two starts. Seabold earned his first quality start last night against the San Francisco Giants, keeping a difficult foe hitless through 5 13 innings and holding them to just two hits into the seventh inning. If Seabold can continue this development and prove he belongs as an MLB starter, he will be of great help to the Rockies.

The Rockies are a team with far more than just one problem, but ultimately they need to figure out what they’re doing with their rotation. The amount of work the bullpen is being called on for is not sustainable, and the lack of quality starting could be a key contributor that leads to their fifth straight losing season.

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Seabold ‘always thinking at least six innings’ each time out |

In his recap of last night’s game against the Giants, Rockies beat writer Manny Randhawa discusses Connor Seabold’s success over his last two outings. Bud Black has praised Seabold’s use of his complete four pitch mix, and Harding states that the “difference-maker” for Seabold has been his changeup.

“I’ve just gone back to how I was throwing it before,” Seabold said. “We were worried about the arm slot and how high it was coming out compared to the fastball. And we just put that to the side and just kind of started just throwing it. And so far, it’s been really good.”

The latest injury updates on Kris Bryant, C.J. Cron | Call to the Pen

Two key veteran members of the Rockies are on the injured list, and Call to the Pen’s Kevin Henry has updates on when they might return. Right fielder Kris Bryant has been on the IL since the end of May with a foot injury. He has been taking batting practice but is not regularly running. First baseman and 2022 All-Star CJ Cron has been sidelined with back issues—much like Bryant was last season—and is moving around better. However, the team has no current timetable for his return.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: Sugar Land Space Cowboys 5, Albuquerque Isotopes 4

Luis Cessa gave up five runs to the Space Cowboys in his four inning start, with three home runs being the real cause of the damage. The Isotopes’ bullpen worked five spotless innings of relief, with Gavin Hollowell making his seventh consecutive scoreless appearance since returning from the IL. Riley Pint also worked two scoreless frames. Coco Montes continues to shine for the ‘Topes, hitting his 12th home run of the season in a 2-for-4 evening.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 5, Somerset Patriots 4

Rockies top pitching prospect Gabriel Hughes made his Double-A debut and looked like he belonged. Hughes worked for five innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits and striking out five batters. Stephen Jones and Austin Kitchen both performed well out of the bullpen, with Jones striking out three batters and Kitchen working two innings. Fan-favorite Dugan Darnell got the save, his fifth of the year. The key difference maker at the plate was Bret Boswell, who went 3-for-4 with a home run and 3 RsBI.

High-A: Spokane Indians 5, Hillsboro Hops 4

Blake Adams had a dominant start for his High-A debut, working seven innings of one-run baseball. He struck out six batters and didn’t give up a single walk. Bryce McGowan struggled in the eighth inning, giving up a three run home run that allowed the Hops to tie up the game. Angel Chivilli earned his sixth save of the season with a scoreless ninth. Yanquiel Fernandez enjoyed a 2-for-4 night with 3 RsBI and a home run, while the red-hot Jordan Beck hit the game winning home run in the ninth on a 2-for-4 performance.

Low-A: Lake Elsinore Storm 13, Fresno Grizzlies 2

Breaking our streak of 5-4 games, the Grizzlies got pummeled by the Storm. Starting pitcher Alberto Pacheco—making his Low-A debut after being promoted from the ACL Rockies—gave up five earned runs on 3 23 innings. He struck out four batters, but also walked four. Brady Hill got scorched in 23 of an inning in which he gave up eight earned runs on five hits and three walks, including two home runs. Sergio Sanchez and Carson Skipper both worked multiple innings to stop the bleeding, and both notched four strikeouts. Both of the Grizzlies’ runs came off the bat of EJ Andrews Jr, and Cody Huff had a 2-for-4 ballgame.

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