Dunn eager to get going
Rockies’ new reliever has had his eyes on Coors
Mike Dunn is not going to immediately, nor single-handedly, fix what ails the Rockies’ bullpen. But the 31-year-old left-hander certainly brings a can-do attitude and some impressive credentials to the endeavor.
Outfitted in his new Rockies baseball cap and No. 38 jersey, Dunn stressed, repeatedly, that he has wanted to pitch for the Rockies for quite some time — Coors Field be darned. When’s the last time you heard a veteran pitcher say that?
“I have kind of been targeting Colorado for about a year and a half,” Dunn said Thursday after signing a three-year, $19 million contract. “I grew up just south of here (in Farmington, N.M.) and played a lot of baseball tournaments around here growing up. I remember telling my dad, ‘That’s a stadium (Coors Field) that I’m going to pitch in someday.’
“And then, as free agency got closer, I told my agent (Tom O’Connell) that Colorado was No. 1, based not just on my family, but on what they already have here as a team. I’ve paid attention to what they have been doing, and it’s a very exciting young group of guys. It’s a team that’s got high hopes.”
But Colorado must fix major problems in order to become true contenders in the National League West. The bullpen was the Rockies’ weakest link in 2016, finishing with a 5.13 ERA that ranked as the worst in the majors. On Tuesday, the Rockies filled another one of their needs by signing infielder/outfielder Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million contract — the largest free-agent contract in franchise history — with plans of converting him into a first base-
Thursday’s signing of Dunn marks the largest contract the Rockies have ever given to a free-agent reliever.
“We felt that Mike Dunn was a natural fit for us,” general manager Jeff Bridich said. “He’s an immediate upgrade and an impactful upgrade.”
Dunn, who pitched the past five seasons with Miami, has struck out 10 batters per nine innings over an eight-year career with the Yankees, Braves and Marlins.
He is 28-25 with a 3.54 ERA in his seven-plus seasons in the majors. He went 6-1 with a 3.40 ERA with the Marlins in 2016, with eight holds and four blown saves.
Dunn’s exact role is to be determined, but he looks to become the Rockies’ primary, lateinning, left-handed reliever, taking over for Boone Logan, who became a free agent. However, Dunn’s contract includes a $1 million clause for games finished, meaning Dunn would cash in if he closes out games.
As it stands now, right-hander Adam Ottavino is the incumbent closer.
“I’ve pitched in the seventh and eighth inning my entire career, but I don’t think any reliever is satisfied with that,” Dunn said. “You always have the intention of being a closer … but, ultimately, I just want to win baseball games, however pans out.”
Dunn was a key lefty setup man for former Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who recently was hired as the Rockies’ bench coach under new manager Bud that Black.
“Once (Redmond) got the job, he reached out to me and we talked a few times,” Dunn said. “We had a great relationship together in Miami. I don’t necessarily know if that made me want to come here any more, because it was already one of my top priorities. But it definitely sweetened the deal.”
Dunn works up in the zone with a four-seam fastball and throws a slider as his primary secondary pitch. He will throw a curveball on occasion and is working on developing a better changeup. He said his goal is to pitch in at least 80 games for Colorado.
Dunn considers himself a strikeout artist — when he needs to be — and is not known as a groundball inducer. According to Fangraphs, his 42.6 percent flyball rate last season ranked 21st among relievers (with at least 40 innings pitched), and his 29.5 percent line-drive rate was the highest in the majors.
“I have been a flyball pitcher my entire career,” he said. “For me it’s about missing the barrel and getting soft contact. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to not go for the strikeout all of the time; kind of saving that strikeout pitch for the time when you need it. If I come in with runners on second and third, I consider myself a guy that can get a strikeout.”
Mike Dunn is no stranger to the Rocky Mountain region, having grown up in Farmington, N.M. David Zalubowski, The Associated Press