Posted on May 31, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s been a rollercoaster of a 2019 season for Colorado Rockies ace Kyle Freeland. That rollercoaster has now thrown him off the tracks altogether with the lefty landing back in the minors. On Friday, the Rockies optioned Freeland back to triple-A where he will try to make some mechanical changes to get his promising career back on track.
It’s been a rather swift and hard fall from grace for the 26-year-old Freeland. A year ago, he appeared to establish himself as Colorado’s ace. In 33 starts in 2018, he was 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA. He even finished fourth, albeit a distant fourth, in the National League Cy Young voting.
The Rockies were expecting more of the same from Freeland this year, hoping he would continue to lead their rotation. Instead, everything has fallen apart for the young lefty. In 12 starts, he’s 2-6 with a 7.13 ERA. He actually had a few impressive outings the first month of the season. But Freeland’s ERA in May is 10.17. One day after giving up five runs on seven hits over just three innings against the Diamondbacks, the Rockies decided it was time for him to regroup at triple-A.
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“Obviously right now, every time out I’m kind of hurting the ballclub, not giving them a great chance out there,” Freeland said in response to the demotion. “Go down and get everything right, get back on track and get back to being me.”
Freeland’s problems seem to have popped up after a brief stint on the Injured List because of a blister. In his five starts before the blister, Freeland’s ERA was a respectable 4.23. In the seven starts since returning, he’s allowed 34 earned runs in 31.2 innings.
During that time, Freeland has had problems with his mechanics, causing his arm slot to change. The good news is that Rockies manager Bud Black, a longtime pitching coach, believes the issue is fixable. However, the club has decided he won’t be fixing it at the major league level.
“Collectively, we put our heads together and got through this — this plan,” Black explained. “We feel like it’s going to help Kyle for the short-term and long-term. He will be able to work on some things without working on them in a big league game. It’s time to take a step back and regroup for a period of time, and I have no doubt that he will be back to where he wants to be.”
The next question is how long it’ll take Freeland to get himself back on track. Even if he figures out his mechanics in short order, it could take a few starts to convince the Rockies that he’s ready to return. In the meantime, the Rockies are likely to ask Chad Bettis to fill the empty spot in their starting rotation. Bettis has made three starts and 12 relief appearances this year, posting a 4.54 ERA.
Oddly enough, Freeland’s demotion comes at a time when the Rockies are playing well. Heading into Friday’s game agasint the Blue Jays, the Rockies are winners of eight of their last 10 games, including five in a row to push them one game above .500. If they can keep things going and get an improved Freeland back at some point, there’s no reason they can’t spend the second half of the season chasing a playoff spot.
However, Freeland remains an important part of the puzzle in 2019. After pitching at an ace level last year, he’s a potential difference maker if he can return to the form he had last season. Ultimately, the Rockies will need him to contribute in a positive fashion if they’re going to get back to the postseason. They can only hope a demotion to triple-A is what he needs to right the ship and get back on track.