Colorado Rockies: Austin Gomber on Yadier Molina, relationship with catchers

Mar 10, 2021; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, Arizona, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Austin Gomber (26) and catcher Elias Diaz (35) talk in the third inning against the San Diego Padres during a spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2021; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, Arizona, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Austin Gomber (26) and catcher Elias Diaz (35) talk in the third inning against the San Diego Padres during a spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /
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Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Austin Gomber will be sidelined when his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, come to town to open a four-game series on Thursday.

Dealing with left forearm tightness, Gomber is still working his way back from the injured list and his return timeline to the Rockies is still in the air, although a bullpen session is scheduled for Thursday.

While Gomber may not see any action against the Cardinals, he will still likely pay a visit with an old friend and someone important to his development on the mound: St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina.

What Colorado Rockies pitcher Austin Gomber told us about Yadier Molina and the new perspectives gained in Colorado.

Molina was behind the plate for Gomber’s first MLB start (July 24, 2018, at Cincinnati), and Molina and Gomber formed a potent starting battery when the southpaw limited Colorado to one earned run and five hits while striking out six in a win in Denver in August of that same year.

While there are certainly plenty on both sides of the debate on whether Molina will be enshrined in Cooperstown one day, Gomber said that the veteran Cardinals catcher was critical to his development on the mound.

“With him, it’s more of a mentality thing and building mental toughness,” Gomber said of Molina. “He’s really good at just instilling confidence and guys, from day one, know that you’re in the big leagues, you get into a tight spot, and you know he’s gonna treat you and just carry himself like you’ve been there for 10 years. When you have somebody who is that special and that elite of a player who treats guys who have been there for one day the same way that he treats guys who have been there for 10 years and instills that same confidence in you, it just makes you feel better about yourself.”

Gomber recalls moments where Molina would pull him and other pitchers aside for pep talks, saying things like “You belong here” and “You can do this” as moments that built him up on the mound. So much so, in fact, that Gomber said he would specifically be seeking Molina out this series in Denver for a reunion and catch-up time.

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While Molina brought years of experience behind the plate in St. Louis (totaling more than 8,000 games played), Gomber has worked with a pair of catchers in Colorado in Elias Díaz and Dom Nuñez who have less than 400 MLB games between them.

As a former pitcher, Colorado manager Bud Black takes a keen interest in the relationships built between his catchers and pitchers. With Gomber coming over to the Rockies in the February trade that netted the Cardinals Nolan Arenado, the relationship between Gomber, Díaz, and Nuñez began building in spring training and has not only built, but changed and morphed during the season.

“Any time you get an opportunity to work with new guys, it’s obviously good because they may see something different than guys who have caught me in the past,” Gomber said. “You get advice and opinions and eyes on things you may not have noticed before.”

That includes earlier this season when Gomber and Díaz teamed up on June 14 in a home win over the San Diego Padres. Gomber threw eight shutout innings, leaning on lessons he learned in his two previous starts against the Padres in May, both coming with Díaz behind the plate as well.

“Especially the last month or so, Díaz and me have been kind of batching up every time, so it’s been good. I feel like every time, I’m shaking (off pitches) less. We’re just getting a better rhythm,” Gomber said. “As we start to face teams multiple times and he’s already caught me against them, we have a base of knowing what worked, what didn’t work, and we’re kind of just able to build on that and keep moving forward.”

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When Gomber returns (likely after the All-Star break), he’ll go back to working with Nuñez and Díaz and their fresh set of eyes on what to expect on the mound. But he’ll also carry the confidence instilled in him by Molina. It’s a combination of old and new that is, so far this season, paying dividends for Gomber.

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