The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

scotts­dale, ariz.» Man­ager Bud Black is be­ing coy about who’ll be his start­ing five pitch­ers when the Rock­ies break camp April 1. But Black held noth­ing back in his praise for left-han­der Kyle Free­land on Wed­nes­day.

“Ever since his first start (of spring), his con­fi­dence has risen,” Black said af­ter Free­land pitched five strong in­nings against Cleve­land. “He’s pitch­ing with a lot of con­vic­tion, with all of his pitches. I thought to­day that his curve­ball, which is sort of like a ‘slurve,’ was re­ally ef­fec­tive against left-han­ders. I also thought he threw a cou­ple of good back­door slid­ers to righthanded hit­ters for strike­outs.

“His fast­ball had move­ment, the ball had ac­tion in the hit­ting area, and it was div­ing and dart­ing, which was great. … All in all it was a very pos­i­tive out­ing for Kyle.”

Free­land struck out five and walked only one, giv­ing up one run on four hits. He has whit­tled his spring ERA down to 2.25.

“I ob­vi­ously know that there are two spots open (in the ro­ta­tion), and I’m in com­pe­ti­tion for them,” he said. “But my men­tal­ity is the same ev­ery day when I come in here. Do the lit­tle things that mat­ter, stayed fo­cused and don’t worry about de­ci­sions that are go­ing to be made that I don’t have any con­trol over. That’s my thought process.”

The three pitch­ers who have se­cured spots in the ro­ta­tion are Jon Gray, Tyler An­der­son and Tyler Chat­wood. There are, ac­cord­ing to Black, five com­pet­ing for the fi­nal two spots: Righthanders An­to­nio Sen­za­tela, Jeff Hoff­man, Ger­man Mar­quez and left­ies Har­ri­son Mus­grave and Free­land.

Asked if he’s close to mak­ing an an­nounce­ment, Black said, “We are get­ting closer. We re­ally are. There are some things we still need to fig­ure out. … We’re whit­tling it down. We’re get­ting there.”

Rusin up­date.

Lefty Chris Rusin took a step to­ward re­turn­ing Wed­nes­day when he threw a 25-pitch bullpen ses­sion, his first time on the mound since strain­ing his right oblique on March 3.

“I don’t ex­pect any prob­lems to come up, but we’ll see how I feel,” Rusin said.

There is no ex­act timetable for his re­turn, but he hopes to be ready about the time the Rock­ies open their sea­son on April 3 at Mil­wau­kee. One thing is for sure. Rusin wants to be fully healed be­fore he pushes him­self.

“It con­trols ev­ery­thing I do, ev­ery move­ment,” he said. “Sneez­ing, cough­ing, open­ing a door, sleep­ing. … So you have to be care­ful, be­cause you don’t want it to flare back up again be­cause it will set you back even longer.”

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