SEATTLE -- Multiple times during their outings, an impressive pitch or a well-orchestrated sequence of pitches will come from Rockies starting pitchers José Ureña, Austin Gomber and Ryan Feltner. Yet not one of them enters a three-game series with the Pirates at Coors Field with an ERA below 8.00.
The Rockies’ mile-high (and hitter-friendly) atmosphere puts them at the bottom of the list for accomplished free agents. The aforementioned trio represent the three ways the Rockies procure pitching -- bargains (Ureña was a waiver claim, now with his fourth team), lesser-service time trade acquisitions (Gomber in the Nolan Arenado trade with the Cardinals) and the MLB Draft (Feltner in the fourth round in ‘18).
When such pitchers put it together, the Rockies can dream of contending. When it doesn’t happen, the Rockies’ 5-10 start is largely because of the struggles of rotation members other than Kyle Freeland (0.96 ERA going into Monday) and Germán Márquez (2-1 before going to the 10-day injured list with right forearm inflammation). The rotation is awaiting one of its established members, Antonio Senzatela, who underwent left knee surgery last August. He will soon start an injury rehab assignment.
With the brightest prospects in the low Minors, the current rotation is the Rockies’ best shot for improvement in the standings. But the end product was hard to see on Friday and Saturday, when Gomber and Feltner each struggled with the bottom of the Mariners’ order and didn’t make it as far as five innings. On Sunday, righty Noah Davis (acquired in a trade with the Reds as a prospect) held the Mariners scoreless in his first Major League start, but he is early in his development.
Even if it’s painful, the Rockies must turn raw stuff into production.
“That’s the process,” Rockies pitching coach Darryl Scott said. “We’re not going to start pressing. That’s not going to do anybody any good. We have to stay within what we’re doing. Each bullpen, ‘This is what we’re working on.’ Each game, ‘This is the game plan and we need to execute.’
“The stuff is the stuff. We know what the stuff is. We know what the spin is. It’s time to quit worrying about that. Now it’s time to take that pitch and get it executed.”
Some quick breakdowns:
● Ureña (9.90 ERA): Re-signed this winter for $3 million with a club option, Ureña began the spring flashing an improved slider to go with his sinker. But walks showed up late in the Cactus League, and his first two starts featured seven walks, three home runs and 12 hits in five total innings. But the power the Marlins, Tigers and Brewers took a chance on before the Rockies reappeared when he struck out six Cardinals in five innings of his last start.
“Marked improvement for sure,” manager Bud Black said after the game. “He threw the ball with more conviction, especially the fastball. The slider was better, and some good changeups -- better location down.”
Scott said Ureña, concentrating on the reasons for the poor start, is regaining the downward angle of his pitches.