SAN FRANCISCO — Back in spring training, the Rockies were asked to name their “grittiest player.”
Left-hander Kyle Freeland got the nod.
“You have to give that to Freeland,” outfielder Charlie Blackmon said. “He’s super tough. He grinds so hard every single pitch, never gives in. He’s super competitive.”
The Rockies, who entered Friday night’s game vs. the Giants having lost 10 of their last 11 games, sure could use a dose of that Freeland grit Saturday afternoon when he takes the mound at Oracle Park. And with San Francisco starting ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner, the stakes will be even higher.
Freeland says bring it on.
“I like to say that we have kind of a similar mentality,” Freeland said. “We are always in attack mode, we’re never going to back down.”
But Freeland, 25, will have to bring more than toughness to the mound. He must execute his pitches, something missing in his last start when he gave up a career-high seven runs to the Braves in just 4 2/3 innings in an 8-6 loss Monday night at Coors Field.
“My fastball command was really bad, I didn’t have it,” Freeland said. “It didn’t help that my secondary stuff wasn’t there. So I worked in my bullpen to get my mechanics right, because I know that’s the cause of it.”
Freeland notched 24 quality starts last season when he went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting. His ability to make mechanical adjustments and corrections, either during a game or between starts, has been a hallmark of his young career.
“In his last start, Kyle’s fastball command was not what we normally see, especially against right-handed hitters,” manager Bud Black said. “I think his self-evaluation, his self-awareness of what’s happening, even during the course of a game, is special. He has a great knack to correct it. It’s a big part of what’s made him develop and mature. He’s a pretty quick learner.”
Big honor for K-Free. Freeland, a Denver native, recently received some exciting news. His No. 21 is going to be retired by Thomas Jefferson High School.
“It feels great,” Freeland said. “When I got the word that they wanted to retire my jersey at T.J. it was humbling and it was an honor. It was great to see them approach me with that. It’s going to be a fun day when we do that at T.J.”
Injury updates. The Rockies received good news on injured first baseman Daniel Murphy, who was placed on the injured list March 30 after fracturing his left index finger. Murphy saw a hand specialist in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Thursday and it was determined that he won’t need surgery. He was fitted for another splint.
“We are past the (possibility) of surgery,” Black said. “They took another X-ray and MRI and it was decided to stay away from surgery.”
There is no exact timetable for Murphy’s return.
Infielder Ryan McMahon (sprained left elbow) took light swings in the batting cage Friday and fielded grounders. Black said the club will continue to increase McMahon’s baseball activities.
Right-hander Antonio Senzatela is fully healed from the infected blister on his right heel. He joined the Rockies in San Francisco on Friday, with Black saying the Rockies brought Senzatela in to monitor him. The Rockies have an open spot in the rotation for Monday’s start at San Diego and Senzatela could get the call. The other possibility is that the Rockies will recall right-hander Jeff Hoffman from Triple-A Albuquerque.
Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (1-2, 5.40 ERA) at Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 3.32)
2:05 p.m. Saturday, Oracle Park
TV: FS1 Radio: 850 AM/94.1 FM
Saturday afternoon’s game features both teams’ No. 1 starter, and both are seeking redemption. Freeland pitched poorly in his last two starts and allowed a career-high seven runs over five innings in his outing vs. the Dodgers. He’s 5-2 with a 2.61 ERA vs. the Giants and 1-1 with a 2.29 ERA at Oracle Park. In two starts here last season, he allowed a single run over 13 ⅔ innings, striking out nine and walking two. San Francisco has lost seven of Bumgarner’s last eight starts, and he’s coming off a game in which he allowed a season-high five runs on just four hits in six innings vs. San Diego. “Mad Bum” owns the Rockies at Oracle Park, going 8-2 with a 1.90 ERA in 15 career starts.
Trending: The Rockies aren’t the only ones struggling at the plate. San Francisco had only 92 hits in its first 14 games (entering Friday), the third-lowest total in franchise history since at least 1908.
Upcoming pitching matchups
Sunday: Rockies RHP German Marquez (1-1, 3.00) at Giants LHP Derek Holland (1-1, 3.38), 2:05 p.m., ATTRM
Monday: Rockies RHP Jeff Hoffman (0-0, 0.00) at Padres LHP Joey Lucchesi (2-1, 4.40), 8:10 p.m., ATTRM
Tuesday: Rockies RHP Jon Gray (0-3, 4.19) at Padres LHP Nick Margevicius (1-1, 1.69), 7:10 p.m., ATTRM
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