FREELAND MAKING STRONG BID FOR STARTING ROLE
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.”
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.”