Now that the shock of the recent departure of All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado has passed, the Colorado Rockies can focus their efforts on “life after Nolan” as spring training opened for the club Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Among the five players that the Colorado Rockies received from St. Louis in the Arenado trade, one name in particular stands out as far as possibly helping the Rockies in the short term for the 2021 season.
Austin Gomber was one of three pitchers obtained by the Colorado Rockies from the St. Louis Cardinals, but the only hurler among the three with Major League experience from a year ago.
The other two pitchers acquired in the trade — Tony Locey and Jake Sommers — did not pitch in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gomber, a left-hander, made 14 appearances for St. Louis during the shortened 60-game 2020 campaign. He compiled a 1-1 record with a 1.86 earned run average while issuing 15 walks and notching 27 strikeouts.
Of his 14 outings, four were starts. In those starts, he carded a 1-0 mark and combined to allow just one run on 11 hits in 15.2 innings pitched with six walks and 17 strikeouts.
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With his experience as both a starter and a reliever since his Major League debut in 2018, Gomber presents an interesting piece to the puzzle for the Rockies this season.
Will he best fit as a member of the team’s five-man starting rotation (joining Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, German Marquez, and Antonio Senzatela) or will he be used as a reliever to bolster a Rockies bullpen that underperformed a year ago?
Gomber minces no words about his intent to vie for a place in the starting rotation.
"“I definitely feel more comfortable as a starter,” he told media, including Rox Pile, during a press conference on Thursday morning, the first day of spring workouts for pitchers and catchers.“I came up through the minor leagues as a starter. My history in the bullpen is that is where the opportunity was, right? At points over there (in St. Louis), we had five starters that were kind of doing the job and there was a need in the bullpen and so that is what I had to do. I had to step up and take that role and and just try to do everything I could to establish myself as a Major League pitcher.Added Gomber: “I definitely feel like I am a starting pitcher. I plan on coming in and competing as a starting pitcher. I think I am better as a starting pitcher. But then again it is just about where the opportunity is and where the team sees me best fit.”"
If the 27-year-old becomes a starter, he would join Freeland as the second left-hander in the starting rotation.
Freeland had already communicated with Gomber before Thursday’s opening day of workouts at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Colorado’s home for spring training.
The four-year MLB veteran likes what he has heard thus far from the team’s recent acquisition.
"“I have actually, over the past week or so since he has been traded over here, been talking with him quite a bit,” Freeland said. “I have been throwing with him quite a bit. We have been picking each other’s brains about our organization, the Cardinals organization, pitching at Coors, pitching at altitude.“He has been asking a lot of great questions that, thankfully, I have been able to have the answers for him about that. It has been great so far. He seems very excited. He is one of those guys chomping at the bit for that fifth spot. Being a fellow lefty, I think that is going to help us out a lot.”"
Rockies manager Bud Black sees a potential for Gomber to claim a berth in the starting rotation.
"“That will play itself out but our initial hope is that he wins a job in the rotation,” Black said. “His motivation and desire is to be a starter. We are looking at that route as is he. He has got the mix of pitches to do it. He has the mindset to do it.“Most of his games in the minor leagues were as a starter. So he has that mentality and he has obviously some big league starts as well. That’s what we are looking at. But we also know that he has logged innings as a reliever so there is a comfort there for us knowing that he could potentially be in our bullpen as a lefty. But let’s have a look at that rotation first.”"
Time will tell just where Gomber’s talents are most utilized, but his versatility to start or come out of the bullpen should only bolster Colorado’s pitching corps for 2021.