Posted on July 11, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
When the Colorado Rockies resume play after the all-star break this weekend, they will do so with a familiar face returning to the team. Left-handed starter Kyle Freeland is expected to be recalled from triple-A in time to start against the Reds on Saturday. Freeland has been in the minors since being demoted in late May amidst a disastrous start to the season. But the Rockies are reportedly comfortable that he’s progressed enough to return to the majors.
A year ago, Freeland was Colorado’s best starter. He won 17 games for the Rockies while posting a 2.85 ERA over 33 starts. However, he failed to build off that success this season, taking a huge step backward. Over 12 starts, he registered a 7.13 ERA. The Rockies grew tired of waiting for him to get back on track. They sent him to triple-A after identifying certain mechanical adjustments they believed could get the lefty back to pitching more like the 2018 version of himself. The club believes the 26-year-old Freeland has taken those adjustments to heart and started to make improvements.
“All the reports are saying that has happened and there’s been some growth in the areas that we’ve asked him to work on, and the signs are pointing in the right direction,” commented Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster last week.
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Statistically, Freeland’s time in the minors has been a disaster. He’s made six starts at triple-A, going 0-4 with an ERA of 8.80. But his time in the minors wasn’t about getting results. Instead, it was re-learning how to be a major league pitcher. After Freeland allowed just one run on four hits over seven innings in his last start, the Rockies have reason to believe that Freeland has turned things around.
“You’re always trying to pitch to a standard to pitch in the big leagues,” Rockies manager Bud Black said after Freeland’s most recent start. “There are certain principles that apply, even in a Minor League game. Kyle, in his last start, pitched very well to Major League standards.”
To be fair, the Rockies could be rushing Freeland back a little after he’s had just one good start at triple-A. However, outside of Jon Gray and German Marquez, none of Colorado’s other starters have been particularly reliable or consistent this season. In fact, the Rockies have struggled filling the back end of their rotation all year. In that sense, the Rockies don’t have much to lose by bringing Freeland back at this point.
Moreover, the Rockies need to evaluate Freeland at the major league level as much as possible prior to the trade deadline. Colorado is surely in the market for rotation help to help them make a run at earning a Wild Card spot for the third straight year. If Freeland can recapture his 2018 form, adding a starter becomes a little less urgent. Otherwise, the Rockies need to add a reliable starter or two if they hope to reach the postseason.
Right now, the Rockies are a game under .500 after losing six in a row before the all-star break. But they are only 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. With more productivity out of their rotation, the Rockies are surely capable of earning a playoff spot. At his best, Freeland could be the difference-maker Colorado needs the second half of the season. Starting Saturday, the Rockies should quickly find out whether the young lefty is capable of being the catalyst that saves their 2019 season or not.