Apr 20, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies pitcher Christian Friedrich (53) warms up in the bullpen during the second inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
After struggling as a starter throughout his days in the Colorado Rockies system – including short stints in the big leagues – Christian Friedrich has finally found a home as a relief pitcher in Denver.
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Christian Friedrich probably won’t ever get a lot of notice, at least not the way the Colorado Rockies have structured their bullpen to start 2015.
After all, Boone Logan is the big-money, big-arm veteran left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. Rafael Betancourt, John Axford, and LaTroy Hawkins are the wiley old veterans who are teaching the younger relievers how to face hitters.
Brooks Brown is the good story, the long-time minor leaguer who is quickly becoming a reliable set-up man. Scott Oberg, and maybe Jairo Diaz and Tommy Kahnle, are the young power arms who all show glimpses of possible closer-type stuff in the future. And I don’t know if you guys have heard, but Adam Ottavino is, well, he’s OK.
But maybe Friedrich’s quiet success in that Rockies ‘pen deserves a little more credit from all of us who have been watching.
His numbers as a starter were horrendous, going 5-11 with a 6.61 ERA in 19 starts, throwing just 98 innings while allowing 123 hits (!), a 1.643 WHIP, a .311 batting average against, 10 wild pitches, and 17 home runs. All of that combines for… yikes.
But as a reliever, Friedrich has been just as much of a revelation as Brooks Brown, a man who has come into his own and built confidence and trust from being an unknown in the Rockies bullpen.
As a reliever, Friedrich has been, well, dominant. 20 games, 20 innings, just 14 hits and three walks allowed (good enough for a 0.850 WHIP), 20 strikeouts, and no home runs allowed spanning parts of the last two seasons.
Those numbers get even better if the Rockies take him out a batter or two earlier than they did in Monday’s 14-3 blowout loss to the Padres, but, hey, they all count equally in the stat book so Friedrich is saddled with another couple hits that easily could’ve been avoided.
That’s very, very solid for a guy who looked incredibly hittable as a starter. (Plus, those relief numbers don’t include the 0.2 scoreless innings he tossed late Friday night in the Rockies’ win over the Giants.)
This season alone, Friedrich has been good against lefties, allowing just 2 singles in 14 plate appearances, while striking out four.
That’s what he has to keep doing as a lefty coming out of the ‘pen (and said another way, it’s what Rex Brothers should have been doing coming out of the ‘pen this year).
Logan, Ottavino and the rest of the late-innings crew will probably get most of the attention this season, and deservedly so.
And Friedrich might very well get left out to dry again in middle relief just to eat innings as he did on Monday, thereby affecting his statistics.
Such is the role of a middle reliever who’s a former starter and can extend an inning, or two, or three, in certain situations like what happened in De La Rosa’s last start. That’s OK.
Just remember Friedrich at the end of the year when he accumulates 60+ appearances of quiet, solid work out of the bullpen, because that’s what he’s shown himself to be capable of thus far in the season.