3 Things I Learned at Colorado Rockies Camp

Here are three things learned while at Colorado Rockies spring training, including thoughts on pitching and infield defense.

Kyle Freeland
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 15: Kyle Freeland #21 of the Colorado Rockies looks on during stretching at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 15, 2024 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Kyle Cooper/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For a rotation that has been ravaged by injuries over the past year, there are plenty of 2024 hopes for the Colorado Rockies riding on the left arm of starting pitcher Kyle Freeland.

Entering his eighth MLB season, all in Colorado, the 30-year-old Freeland enters the campaign as the leader of the rotation. Coming off a season where he navigated through 29 starts (posting a 5.03 ERA/5.30 FIP/1.471 WHIP), while fellow starting pitchers German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela were lost to Tommy John surgery, Freeland’s value and importance to the Rockies is arguably at an all-time high.

Much of Freeland’s spring training has been focused on improving his changeup, building upon a new grip he found at the end of last season.

So far, Freeland has had a successful spring with that changeup (and other pitches), scattering seven hits and three runs over 9.0 innings in three starts. He credits what is done outside of the public eye for where his changeup (and other pitches) are with Opening Day just two weeks away.

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“Most of the work done (in spring) is in the bullpen. In the game, you’re in compete mode,” Freeland said. “You’re working with everything you have, trying to make some small adjustments and not do anything drastic out there because you don’t know if it’s going to work or not with a hitter in the box.

“For me, all the work is done in the bullpen, getting that right feel coming off the fingertips with all your pitches. Then you take that work and you bring it into the game.”

Sean Bouchard ready to make impact in 2024

After a left biceps tear cost him most of the 2023 season, Bouchard is ready to put last year in the rearview mirror.

In the mix to break camp as one of Colorado’s options in the outfield, the 27-year-old Bouchard made the most of his return from the injury last September, slashing .316/.372/.684 with four home runs in 43 plate appearances. How he ended 2023 has Bouchard ready to show the Rockies what he can do with a full season.

“There were some things that I took from those last at-bats of 2023 into the offseason,” Bouchard said. “It was good to play well, and I think there are things that can transfer from one short stint into a longer one this year.”

Among those “things” are fundamentals that Bouchard laughed at as “elementary as hitting goes,” but important reminders of just how important the minute details of hitting can be.

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“At the end of the day, it’s the fundamentals that really carry you so, for me, it’s about getting back to those,” Bouchard said. “I want to keep things as simple as possible and repeat those things as often as possible.”

Bouchard played 12 games in right field last season while spending four games in left, and is one of the intriguing options for the Rockies when Charlie Blackmon (right) or Nolan Jones (left) need a day off or move into the designated hitter role.

Infield work paying off for Rockies

Colorado enters 2024 with plenty of Gold Glove possibilities, including second baseman Brendan Rodgers (a winner in 2022) and center fielder Brenton Doyle (who took home a Gold Glove in 2023). However, third baseman Ryan McMahon and shortstop Ezequiel Tovar were also among the Gold Glove finalists last season at their respective positions.

For Colorado manager Bud Black, his team’s defense needs to be at a high level every game, but especially the 81 games played at spacious Coors Field in Denver.

With an infield littered with Gold Glove candidates, Black tips his cap to Warren Schaeffer, now in his second season as the team’s infield and third base coach following stints as Colorado’s manager at the Double-A and Triple-A levels.

“I’ve been fortunate to be around some really, really good ones,” Black said of the infield coaches he has worked with during his time with the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres before taking over in Colorado prior to the 2017 season. “(Schaeffer) follows in that line of those guys, with a combination of tremendous work ethic and teacher of technique, both with the hands and feet.”

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Schaeffer has been busy in Scottsdale, working with not only Colorado’s current Major Leaguers, but also the next generation of infielders who will be on display during Saturday’s Spring Breakout, including middle infielder Adael Amador, currently listed as the top overall prospect for the Rockies and the 28th-highest prospect in all of baseball.

Black also gave Schaeffer credit for working with Colorado’s scouts on positioning data, helping Rockies defenders be in the right place as often as possible.

If several Rockies are once again in the mix for a Gold Glove, look no further than some of the work done out of the spotlight by Schaeffer and the team on the practice fields and before every Colorado game.