On Tuesday, Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland suffered what was called at the time a “left shoulder strain.” On Wednesday, we learned more a little more about it and what it could mean for Colorado pitching during the initial part of the 2021 schedule.
During his talk with members of the media on Wednesday morning, including Rox Pile, Rockies manager Bud Black confirmed that Freeland is “probably going to miss time. I hate to put a timetable on this so soon without knowing what’s really going on in his shoulder, but he’s going to miss time.”
Black said that imaging on Freeland’s shoulder has occurred and more was coming on Wednesday, with results being announced later in the day. That’s when we will have a better idea of the extent of the injury. We will, of course, keep you informed with the latest news.
How will Kyle Freeland’s injury impact Colorado Rockies pitching?
According to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post, Freeland was slated to pitch the second game of the season for the Rockies. That would have been a 6:40 p.m. (MT) contest on Friday, April 2, at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers, part of a four-game series between the Rockies and Dodgers at Coors Field to open the season.
One of the key points to know about the early part of the schedule is that the Rockies open with that four-game series and then have an off day on Monday, April 5, before welcoming the Arizona Diamondbacks into Denver. With those four games against the Dodgers, the Rockies could theoretically shift their rotation to have German Marquez, Jon Gray, Antonio Senzatela (who has overcome a hamstring injury in camp), and Austin Gomber pitch the games against the Dodgers and then start the rotation over again (since pitchers will have their normal amount of rest between starts thanks to the off day) when the Diamondbacks series open on Tuesday.
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Conceivably, the first time the Rockies would need a fifth starter would be on Saturday, April 10, in the middle of a three-game series at San Francisco. That could very possibly be Chi Chi Gonzalez, who was competing for the fifth rotation spot with Gomber before the southpaw, acquired in a trade with St. Louis sent Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals, secured the spot with a strong spring showing.
Gonzalez, who battled a shoulder injury last season, talked about his focus this spring in this article.
Should Gonzalez slide into the fifth starter role, that would open a “long relief” role in the bullpen, a position Gonzalez was thought to be in line for heading into the season. While Gonzalez could likely handle that role during the Dodgers series, someone else would need to hold that spot in San Francisco and perhaps other upcoming series, depending on how long Freeland were to miss action. The “long relief” role could even fall to Robert Stephenson, acquired in a trade this offseason with Cincinnati, who pitched multiple innings at time with the Reds.
Dereck Rodriguez, signed to a minor league deal in the offseason and possessing starting and relief experience in San Francisco, could also be in line for a long relief role or potential starting assignment.
With seven games left in spring training, a focus on the pitching side in Scottsdale will be getting pitchers ready for what roles they could hold on the Opening Day roster.
“(Gonzalez) and Dereck Rodriguez and (Ryan) Rolison, they are capable of throwing 75 pitches the next time out, based on what they’ve done this spring,” Black said. “Their pitch counts have been built to a certain level but we’ll probably press that the next time they take the mound.”
As a note, neither Gonzalez nor Rodriguez are currently on Colorado’s 40-man roster, so a move involving Freeland to the injured list and one of them taking his place is very possible. However, if the Rockies want both players available, an additional roster move would need to be made.
When further news on Freeland’s injury develops, we will update this article below.