Colorado Rockies roster battle: Elias Diaz meshing well with Kyle Freeland
By Duane DaPron
As a non-roster invitee, Elias Diaz is battling to secure a spot as a reserve catcher on the Colorado Rockies opening day roster.
With his ability to mesh well with Colorado Rockies starter Kyle Freeland during the first two weeks of spring training, the former member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization could be well on the way to earning a coveted berth with the Rockies.
Elias Diaz, who is hoping to earn playing time behind incumbent Rockies catcher Tony Wolters, was behind the plate on Sunday when Freeland took the mound against Cleveland.
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Diaz played a big role in calling pitches as the Rockies hurler allowed just two hits and one earned run in three innings while fanning four in Colorado’s 3-1 victory against the Indians.
Freeland and Diaz have teamed up twice so far this spring. The comfort level between the two continues to grow.
‘We’re still learning about each other, but his pitch mix so far our first two outings together has been great,” Freeland said following Sunday’s game with Cleveland.
“He’s still trying to learn me as much as I’m trying to learn him, so we’re both open books right now. But we’re learning quickly so we can get on that same page. He’s starting to understand what I like.”
Diaz, a native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, who signed with Pittsburgh in 2008 as a free agent, was a valuable reserve and part-time starter while with the Pirates.
Last year, he hit .241 in a personal season-best 101 games for the Pirates and is a career .251 hitter seeing action in 250 Major League contests.
But Diaz, who the Rockies signed to a minor league contract January 6 as a free agent along with an invitation to spring training, is probably better known for his defensive skills and handling of pitchers.
Diaz had nothing but praise for Freeland’s performance against the Indians.
“He was good,” Diaz said of Freeland’s three-inning, 53-pitch stint that featured 31 strikes.
“It was beautiful the way he put in play all four pitches,” he added.
“His command was good. His changeup played really good. He worked on his curveball today and it was good.”
From what he has seen of Freeland in Cactus League action, Diaz has been impressed with the left-hander.
“He is the type of pitcher who can do whatever he wants,” he said. “He can throw on both sides of the plate. That is good for the catcher.”
Since joining the Rockies, Diaz feels right at home and wants to be a key contributor to the team by having a solid spring for Colorado.
“I am so happy right now. I want to keep bringing something good for the team in spring training and during the (regular) season.
“We have two weeks (of spring training) left,” he added. “We have to do everything together, figure out the little things and get ready for the season.”
With that approach and outlook, Diaz could be a huge asset for the Rockies.
“You have to have a plan, be confident, and go out and play,” he said. “You try to enjoy the game and compete every day.”