One last Cactus League game on Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox gave the Colorado Rockies a chance for a final tuneup as well as an opportunity to finish spring training with a .500 record.
Sam Hilliard raced home on a wild pitch with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning for what proved to be the game-winning run and Colorado edged the White Sox 2-1 before a crowd of 2,212 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in a scheduled seven-inning contest.
With the victory, the Rox wrap up spring training with a 14-14-1 record, winning their final two contests to reach the .500 mark.
A trio of Colorado Rockies — Austin Gomber, CJ Cron, and Josh Fuentes — capped spring training in impressive fashion.
In his sixth start, Gomber tossed three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while striking out four with no walks.
Gomber, who was acquired from the Rockies in the trade that sent Nolan Arenado to St. Louis, surrendered leadoff singles in the first and third innings but managed to blank the Sox in his three-inning stint that featured 39 pitches, including 28 for strikes. He capped his outing by fanning Chicago leadoff hitter Tim Anderson in a 10-pitch duel.
Anderson opened the game with a single before Gomber retired the next six Sox batters.
The recent Rox acquisition did not allow a run in four of his six Cactus League starts while compiling a 3.20 earned run average (7 earned runs allowed in 19.1 innings).
In comments made to media, including Rox Pile, on Tuesday morning, Colorado manager Bud Black said he has been impressed with what he has seen from Gomber since joining the organization.
"“I think the overall mix of pitches, seeing him up close and personal as opposed to video. I think that is the thing that has stood out,” Black said of Gomber, who struck out 19 while permitting just two walks and 18 hits in spring training."
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In breaking down Gomber’s mix of pitches, Black thinks the left-hander has a bright future.
"“I think this guy can be a successful Major League starting pitcher,” he said. “As his career moves forward, there is enough fast ball with life. It is not high in velocity but I like how his fast fall plays. He has a really good overhand curve ball, probably you can match that up with any curve ball in the game as a very solid pitch. He has got a cutter slider that I like and a developing feel for a changeup.”"
Besides his arsenal of pitches, Black likes the intangibles that the Florida Atlantic University product brings to the mound.
"“Then you go along with a guy who has a great competitive spirit,” he added. “There is some intensity but yet looseness and (a) clear thinker in competition. There is a lot to like. He has been very enjoyable to work with and getting to know him as a player.”"
What’s more, Black knows Gomber is ready to make an impact with the Rox franchise.
"“He is excited about being a Rockie and making contributions, not only this year but (in) years to come as a starting pitcher.”"
Gomber has already been announced as Colorado’s starting pitcher in the final game (Sunday) of the team’s season-opening, four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field.
Meanwhile, Fuentes — who batted second while starting at third base against Chicago — notched a first-inning single in two at bats to finish spring training with a .339 average at the plate.
Entering the game, Fuentes led all Major Leaguers this spring with eight doubles while being tied for the third-most, extra-base hits with 10. He ended the spring with a team-high 20 hits.
Starting at first base on Tuesday, Cron tallied his fifth home run — a team-best — powering an opposite-field solo shot to right field on an 0-2 pitch in the second inning off Sox starter Dylan Cease to give Colorado an early lead. He finished Cactus League action with a slugging percentage over .700.
Besides Gomber’s scoreless stint, relievers Tyler Kinley, Robert Stephenson, and Zac Rosscup each tossed a scoreless inning with Rosscup picking up his lone save of the spring.
Kinley surrendered only one run in five, one-inning appearances this spring for a 1.80 ERA while Stephenson, who picked up the victory against Chicago, compiled a 4.00 ERA in nine, one-inning outings.
Now it is on to the regular season for the Rockies with a season and home opener Thursday at 2:10 p.m. (MDT) against the World Champion Dodgers.
German Marquez is slated to start for Colorado while Clayton Kershaw opens on the mound for Los Angeles.