Colorado Rockies: A surprising roster move shuffles pitching depth

On Thursday afternoon, the Colorado Rockies announced two moves that will immediately impact their pitching depth.

With a tweet, the Rockies announced they had claimed left-handed pitcher Bernardo Flores Jr. off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals and optioned him to Triple-A. In a corresponding move, the Rockies designated Ryan Castellani for assignment.

The Rockies will now have a week to trade the 25-year-old Castellani or see if he makes it through the waivers process without being picked up by another team. If so, they will have the opportunity to resign him to a minor league deal.

So what does this pitching roster move mean for the Colorado Rockies?

It has been a rough 2021 for Castellani. In his spring training debut, he threw just 44 pitches before being pulled after hitting two batters, walking two, and giving up seven runs (four earned). After the game, Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters, including Rox Pile, “He’s got the weapons. He’s just got to hone it in the strike zone.”

Castellani would see just one more spring training appearance, surrendering three runs while walking three and hitting a batter in a March 8 outing against the Reds.

With control clearly an issue, Castellani worked at the alternate site and Colorado called him up for a spot start as the 27th man in a doubleheader with the Giants on May 4. He walked four and allowed five hits in 3.1 innings.

After that, he made eight starts for Triple-A Albuquerque, posting a 7.82 ERA while giving up 11 homers and walking 33 in 35.2 innings.

It was a quick downfall for the former second-round pick, who made nine starts for the Rockies in 2020 and allowed just one run in his first two starts (spanning 8.2 innings).

While Castellani had been struggling this season, he was still viewed as depth in a Rockies farm system where quality pitching depth is razor thin. Jose Mujica (eight starts, 8.03 ERA) has already seen time with the Rockies and Ryan Rolison, Colorado’s top pitching prospect, is still healing following surgery.

So what about Flores? Like Castellani, he struggled in his only big league appearance of the season, facing three New York Mets on May 5 without recording an out. However, as a southpaw, he provides an option that Colorado has very few of who could be ready to pitch in the big leagues.

With Triple-A Memphis this season, Flores had eight appearances (five starts) and opponents hit .315 against him. His WHIP of 1.85 is boosted by the 40 hits he gave up in 31.1 innings of work.

So what does all of this mean for the Rockies? They will need to see what Flores can deliver once he has on an Isotopes uniform. He won’t be ready to make an immediate impact at the Major League level, but could see time after the All-Star break, if the Rockies make any trades involving pitching.

With Austin Gomber on the injured list and Jon Gray returning this weekend in Milwaukee, the Rockies will still use Chi Chi Gonzalez in the rotation until Gomber is ready to return (which, in theory, could be right after the All-Star break if he follows Gray’s injury timeline from earlier this season). Should the Rockies need another starter, Jhoulys Chacin has already filled that role this year and could again for a short amount of innings if needed.

After that, however, the starting options are slim for the Rockies. Flores provides an option, but, right now, it may not be the option Colorado could insert and feel confident in.