It has been an up and down Spring Training for the Colorado Rockies regarding health. Ian Desmond (fractured left hand), Tom Murphy (fractured right forearm), and Chad Bettis (cancer recurrence) highlight the list.
Colorado has proven guys to step in and fill the void for Desmond and Murphy, but as for Bettis it's up in the air. Bettis was a crucial part of Colorado's bounce back year in 2016, leading the team in wins with 14 while pitching perhaps his best baseball down the stretch.
With that being said, Colorado now has two open rotation spots.
Kyle Freeland is one of those guys that has been in the mix for cracking the rotation.
The Denver native made quite the impression Wednesday afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers. The southpaw pitched four scoreless innings, yielding five hits while striking out five, lowering his spring ERA to 2.45.
It looked as if it would be a rough start for Freeland, allowing back to back hits to Keon Broxton (single) and Scooter Gennett (double). Freeland then settled down, collecting two strikeouts and a ground out to erase the trouble.
"After those first two hitters got on, you just have keep the same mindset, keep throwing strikes and make sure to get the ball on the ground and get outs," Freeland said. "[I] found a groove, got into it, and stayed right there."
The turning point appeared to happen against Brewers outfielder Domingo Santana with a little help from a variety of pitches.
"Yeah there was a couple [pitches], actually. We threw some quality changeups that he didn't like very much and then we painted a fastball away that he didn't like at all," Freeland said. "Like I said, bearing down and making pitches in a situation like that is pretty big."
Pitching and executing the pitches with runners in scoring position is a huge plus for any pitcher trying to make an impression to crack a rotation spot.
"I think it's very important," Freeland said. "It shows that I can work out of runners on base and traffic. It also teaches me different ways to get out of stuff and teaches me to stay calm."
Wednesday marked Freeland's second start of the spring -- fourth appearance overall. The lefty logged five innings in relief, giving up five hits while striking out two. As for his first start -- it didn't go so well. Freeland gave up four runs (three earned) on two hits in just two innings. He also walked two and struck out two.
"It was a little different but at the same time I keep the same mindset as a pitcher," Freeland said. "Regardless of starting or relieving you have to come in and get outs."
Following the Rockies 5-4 victory over the Brewers (thanks to a walkoff, two-run home run via Cristhian Adames), skipper Bud Black had nothing but praise for Freeland after his start.
"He worked his way out of that jam in the first inning, made some pitches got a couple key strikeouts." Black said. "But again I think he showed today what he showed in the last two outings which he didn't show the first one. Composure, good rhythm to his delivery and I thought every pitch he threw was with intent and focus. He pitched and didn't throw."
As far as the first start goes, he was -- like Black said -- throwing and not pitching.
"I think early on, early spring, he was a little bit excited. Maybe trying to do a little bit too much." Black said. "Even his bullpens, his first game, we saw the excitement. He was a guy that wasn’t pitching. he was throwing. Now his last few outings he’s been pitching and not throwing. There’s a difference. So that’s something that I’ve noticed, we’ve had a couple of conversations about that, about where his heartbeat needs to be, his poise and his delivery as it relates to those things. And he’s made some nice adjustments."
More from Black on Freeland:
"What I’ve seen is a guy coming to camp very focused on making an impression." Black said. "That’s the thing that sticks out the most for me, that he worked his way to Triple-A last year, pitched well … I think he sees a potential opportunity getting closer for him to get to the majors, and he’s doing everything he can every day to get closer to making a big league roster."