Colorado Rockies morning after: Pitching piggyback paying off

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 14: Ryan Castellani #60 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the Texas Rangers in the first inning of a game at Coors Field on August 14, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 14: Ryan Castellani #60 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the Texas Rangers in the first inning of a game at Coors Field on August 14, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Rockies seem to have found an answer at the fifth starter position, thanks in part to a flourishing rookie and a pitcher who was vying for that job in spring training.

Ryan Castellani made his Coors Field debut on Friday night as the Colorado Rockies opened up a three-game series against the Texas Rangers. Much like the first start of his career, it was very much a success.

Following up on a four-inning scoreless debut on the road against the Seattle Mariners where he didn’t allow a hit, Castellani allowed just two hits on Friday in 4.2 innings during an 88-pitch performance where he struck out seven. Nick Solak was the only Texas hitter to solve Castellani, registering both hits, including the fifth-inning home run that just cleared the out-of-town scoreboard to account for the only run surrendered by the Colorado starter.

By the way, among those seven whiffs was Castellani striking out the side in the top of the first. According to Elias Sports, that’s the first time a Rockies pitcher has ever struck out the side in the first inning of his Coors Field debut.

While Castellani duplicated the success he found in Seattle against the Rangers, the man who replaced him on the mound on Friday found the same kind of success … just like he did in relief of Castellani against the Mariners.

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Jeff Hoffman seems to have settled into his role as a long reliever with the Rockies, and seems to have become the perfect piggyback partner for Castellani as the rookie stretches out to a longer pitch count.

Considered to be in the running for the fifth starter spot in Spring Training I and II, Hoffman was passed over for the role in favor of Chi Chi Gonzalez. When Gonzalez went on the injured list with right biceps tendinitis, it was Castellani who was called up from the alternate training site to take his place.

Hoffman, however, hasn’t pouted about his lot. Rather, he’s become a go-to guy for the Rockies in the game’s middle stages … especially coming in in a piggyback situation with Castellani.

"“I think this adaptation to the bullpen has been good for Jeff. He’s taken it and is contributing. He’s been very unselfish and has taken the mindset of I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team,” Colorado manager Bud Black said after the game. “And he’s really fitting in nicely to the ‘pen in a role that we can give us what he did tonight, two and a third innings of solid baseball.”"

In Seattle on August 8, Hoffman followed Castellani with three innings of one-hit ball, earning the win. Against Texas on Friday, as Black said, Hoffman took over for Castellani and allowed just two hits in 2.1 innings. Unfortunately for the Rockies, the hits were consecutive from Solak (double) and Rougned Odor (RBI single) to knot the game at 2.

It was the first run given up by Hoffman this season, as his ERA “climbed” to 1.04 in 8.2 total innings. Opponents are now hitting .056 against him and he owns a 0.47 WHIP. Not bad for someone who carried a lot of questions about his role and his future with the club in Spring Training I.

So, to recap, between Castellani and Hoffman in Castellani’s first two Major League starts, the duo has combined to allow just five hits and two runs in 14.0 innings while striking out 14 and walking four. That’s a solid one-two punch.

Of course, all of this piggyback pitching praise was overshadowed by Colorado’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers, the team’s fourth loss in its last five outings. And while Castellani and Hoffman once again provided quality pitching, they were outdone by Lance Lynn’s complete game two-hitter.

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Still, what we’ve seen from the duo has been a bright spot for the Rockies over what has been a tough six days. Castellani will get his next chance to impress on Wednesday back at Coors Field against yet another American League West opponent in the Houston Astros.