Dunn ea­ger to get go­ing

Rock­ies’ new re­liever has had his eyes on Coors

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders

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-

man.

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

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