Colorado Rockies: Rookie season memorable for Lucas Gilbreath

Aug 18, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Lucas Gilbreath (58) pitches in the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Lucas Gilbreath (58) pitches in the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

As the old adage goes, if you fall off the horse, get right back on it.

In a sense, that is what relief pitcher Lucas Gilbreath has done in his rookie season in the Majors with the Colorado Rockies.

After making the Colorado roster following spring training in Arizona, Gilbreath made his Major League debut May 1 — in Arizona — against the host Diamondbacks.

Colorado Rockies reliever Lucas Gilbreath experienced quite a shock in his Major League debut.

The left-hander’s Major League debut was most memorable. His first big league pitch was swatted for a home run.

Unfazed, Gilbreath rebounded to finish his inning of relief on just five more pitches. In so doing, he became the only pitcher in the last 20 years to hurl one inning, allow a home run and throw six or fewer pitches in his Major League debut.

What a way to get your name in the record books!

From there, Gilbreath settled down and has become one of the most effective and consistent members of the Colorado Rockies bullpen.

Entering Tuesday’s action, Gilbreath logged a 2-2 record with a 3.63 earned run average. In 39.2 innings, he has allowed 30 hits and 16 earned runs with 38 strikeouts and 23 walks. Opponents are hitting just .205 against him.

“For me, it was just making some adjustments, working on some of the things we had talked about and just getting more comfortable out here,” he said about his development from early this season.

“Getting comfortable in a variety of roles, a variety of situations. Talking to some of the older guys here, leaning on them for information. Just getting back to the point where I can trust my stuff, could be aggressive in the zone. Tell yourself that you are meant to be here and there is no reason to be pressured or nervous. Just go out there and try to do your job.”

He has been scored upon in only 11 of 43 outings this season (which includes one start). Since his last recall from Triple-A Albuquerque on June 5, Gilbreath has turned in scoreless performances in 24 of 26 and 29 of 35 outings.

In particular, he has been stingy to opponents in home games in 2021, compiling a 2.53 ERA with 20 strikeouts and 11 walks in 20 relief outings at Coors Field.

Gilbreath’s success at home helped the Westminster (Colo.) native compile a career-long streak of 17 consecutive scoreless appearances, spanning 16.0 innings.

However, much like the rude greeting that he received in Phoenix in his MLB debut, Gilbreath’s scoreless appearance string abruptly ended Thursday afternoon when Max Muncy of the Los Angeles Dodgers drove the left-hander’s first pitch in the top of the 10th inning over the centerfield wall for a tie-breaking two-run home run in a come-from-behind 5-3 Dodgers victory — at Coors Field.

The rookie reliever said he gained from the experience with the streak-ending homer.

“For me … to continue to try and read hitters and go out there with a good attack plan,” said the rookie reliever, who picked up his first MLB save July 23, ironically, against Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium and earned his first win in the Majors following an inning of relief September 9 at Philadelphia.

“I have got to have respect for a guy like Muncy who has had a great career, and a great year. Going forward, you put that information in your brain, if you will, and you know this is what happened, this is what I need to do because this is not the first time it is going to happen and it’s not the last time it’s going to happen. So, for me, it’s learning from that, learning how to deal with that, learning how to handle that, how to bounce back. Then, going forward, being able to prevent those situations in the future.”

Since the end of his scoreless outing streak, Gilbreath has responded with a pair of scoreless one-inning relief stints.

“I think there is still more to learn every day,” he said. “I think I have learned a lot as the year has gone on.”

Added the product of the University of Minnesota: “At this point, I have gotten pretty comfortable with it. I have an idea when I might pitch, what I need to be ready for. It’s just been good to get those opportunities and work my way through them, good and bad, and learn from my mistakes and try to continue to get better.”

Colorado manager Bud Black said there is Gilbreath has the tools for a bright future.

“What we like is his stuff and his talent,” Black said referencing Gilbreath’s live fast ball, sharp curve ball and a developing split-finger changeup.

“The stuff is there. I think he is built the right way mentally. He is sharp. The aptitude is there to learn. He has been a sponge. Forty innings or so of Major League pitching is not a lot. But he has shown enough poise and growth that we can feel good about his future and about the guy as a player. (Good) head on his shoulders. All those things that will equate to a big, successful career are in there.”

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For his part, Gilbreath knows there is still work yet to do in his MLB career.

“For me, it’s going to try to just become more consistent. I am going to have bad ones, but I would like to make those fewer and fewer as I continue. Going into next year and the next however many years of my career, I want to be able to be a guy who everybody can trust and can help us win games. In whatever role that Is, whatever situations that is, I want to be able to help out.”