Colorado Rockies: How Lucas Gilbreath has quietly become a great reliever for the Rockies

Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Lucas Gilbreath entered the 2021 season entering with a lot of changes.

Gilbreath, 25, the local product from the Denver suburb of Westminster, did not have a minor league season in 2020, like all minor leaguers but in 2019, at Advanced-A Lancaster, he did not have a good season. Gilbreath spent the entire season in Lancaster and went 5-10 with a 5.81 ERA in 28 starts. He looked like he wouldn’t be in the majors any time soon.

However, Lucas Gilbreath has quickly become one of the most reliable relievers in the Colorado Rockies bullpen

With a lot of minor leaguers deciding to retire due to the pandemic or leaving the Colorado Rockies organization, Lucas Gilbreath completely skipped Double-A. The Rockies decided to make him a full time relief pitcher and they elevated him up to Triple-A Albuquerque, to start the season. However, the Rockies needed him before the Triple-A season started in May so, on May 1, Gilbreath made his debut in Arizona for the Rockies.

He has since pitched for Albuquerque, where he has pitched in a total of 1 2/3 innings but, at first, it seemed like Gilbreath needed some more time to develop in the minors. After all, in his first five MLB outings, he had an ERA of 10.13 with a .348 average against him and a 1.139 OPS against him.

But since then (starting on May 17), Gilbreath has been great for the Rockies. In that span (24 games, including a spot start of one inning), he has an ERA of 3.80 and a FIP of 3.78. Opponents are hitting .192/.309/.282 against him since then.

And more recently, he has been even better. Since the beginning of June, his ERA is 3.44 (3.88 FIP) and since the All-Star break (11 appearances), he has been superb, as he has an ERA of 1.50 (2.67 FIP). Opponents are hitting .167/.265/.190 against him.

Rockies manager Bud Black, a former left-handed pitcher himself, spoke before Friday’s game about Gilbreath’s recent success and how he has been very good for the Rockies. He said that he has seen a lot of things improve with Gilbreath.

“I think (Gilbreath has had) better command of the slider,” Black said. “I think that’s something we’ve focused on over the last couple of months: the ability to throw that for a called strike and also, to expand the (strike) zone, both to lefties and to righties. I think the feel for his breaking ball is much improved. I think the quality of it, as far as its shape, the spin, (and) the control is much better and I think with the fastball, I think the velocity has ticked up just a little bit. Not a lot (but it has been enough) to beat hitters with velocity.

“(He has been) much more under control within his delivery. I think he is repeating his delivery pretty consistently and when you do that, the ability to throw strikes and the pitch making becomes easier.”

The Westminster native looks like he has found himself a home in the Rockies bullpen and, perhaps, since he is very familiar with pitching at elevation, he could be another pitching prospect that the Rockies have found a gem in.