ROOKIE PITCH­ERS STILL LEARN­ING HOW TO FO­CUS

The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

Rock­ies rookie right-han­der Jeff Hoff­man cer­tainly did not pitch well in a 13-5 loss to Pitts­burgh on Fri­day night. His seven runs, nine hits and four walks al­lowed over three in­nings is ev­i­dence of that.

But there were fac­tors out of Hoff­man’s con­trol that con­trib­uted to that ugly line. The Pi­rates doinked three hits off him in their two-run first in­ning. Plus, Hoff­man got squeezed by home plate um­pire Al­fonso Mar­quez. Ac­cord­ing to Stat­cast’s strike zone imag­ing, eight Hoff­man bor­der­line strikes were ruled balls. Be­cause four of those were first pitches, Hoff­man ended up pitch­ing from be­hind in the count.

But as they say, “that’s base­ball,” and ad­ver­sity is some­thing young pitch­ers need to be able to block out and put be­hind them. That’s the next step in Hoff­man’s mat­u­ra­tion.

“One thing that I’ve learned is that there is go­ing to be at least one or two times in your start when you are re­ally go­ing to have fo­cus and bear down — I mean re­ally bear down — and make great pitches,” said 25year-old right-han­der Jon Gray, who’s slowly learn­ing how to deal with ad­ver­sity, es­pe­cially at Coors Field. “A lot of times, that’s go­ing to make the dif­fer­ence be­tween whether you win or lose, or how long you’ll pitch.”

Man­ager Bud Black preaches that walks will de­stroy a pitcher at Coors Field. Gray, who has walked six bat­ters in 17 in­nings at home (3.18 walks per nine in­nings), has taken that to heart.

“I don’t like walks here,” Gray said. “I would rather give some­one a heater and let them hit it out, then walk them. Be­cause if you walk some­body in this park, all sorts of things can hap­pen.”

Hoff­man is av­er­ag­ing 4.45 walks per nine at Coors, fol­lowed by lefty Kyle Free­land 3.07, right-han­der An­to­nio Sen­za­tela 2.89 and right-han­der German Mar­quez 2.49 (en­ter­ing Satur­day night’s game).

Bet­tis on fast track. Vet­eran right-han­der Chad Bet­tis, re­turn­ing from his bout with tes­tic­u­lar can­cer, is mov­ing closer to join­ing Colorado’s start­ing ro­ta­tion. He’s sched­uled to pitch for Triple-a Albuquerque on Sun­day at Salt Lake and throw 60 to 65 pitches.

If all goes well, he would in­crease his work­load to 80 pitches Fri­day. At that point, the Rock­ies might con­sider adding him to their ro­ta­tion.

Foot­notes. In case you missed this tid­bit, Nolan Are­nado is only the fifth player in bigleague his­tory with a three home-run game, a cy­cle and a walk-off homer in the same sea­son. The oth­ers are Ge­orge Brett (1979), Ted Wil­liams (1946), Joe Dimag­gio (1937) and Jim­mie Foxx (1933). All of those play­ers are in the Hall of Fame. … Char­lie Black­mon’s 14-game hit­ting streak, tied for the long­est of his ca­reer, ended Fri­day night. … Tyler Chat­wood, who pitched a sim­u­lated game Fri­day, said his strained calf felt fine Satur­day.

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