SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Carlos Estévez knows the competition for the Colorado Rockies closer role this year just got a lot more intense with the free agent signing of veteran reliever Alex Colomé. While he is glad to see his friend and fellow pitcher from the Dominican Republic as part of the back end of Colorado’s bullpen, Estévez is also ready to compete with him to hold down the ninth inning in 2022.
“Honestly, every reliever in the game wants to be a closer,” Estévez said. “Always, every year, I’m just ready to compete and help my team win.”
Estévez earned 11 saves last season, tying a career-high he set in his rookie season of 2016. He transitioned to the closer role on August 27 and converted nine of 11 save opportunities through the end of the 2021 campaign. He also logged a 14-game scoreless streak between July 31 and September 3 (totaling 14 innings), the longest stretch of his career.
Now, with Colomé in the mix, Estévez knows he will have to show, if he is to be the closer, he can hold the role. However, he also looks around the clubhouse and sees a bullpen (that includes younger pitchers like Jordan Sheffield, Lucas Gilbreath, and Ben Bowden, among others) that is a year older and has earned valuable MLB experience.
“With this group that we’ve been building for a few years, I feel like we have good stuff heading into this season,” Estévez said. “I think we (the bullpen) are going to help this team a lot.”
Some other news and notes from around Colorado Rockies spring training
Getting to know you
With Colomé and Chad Kuhl (signed as a free agent from the Pittsburgh Pirates) among the new faces on the mound for the Rockies, catcher Dom Nuñez has a timeline in his head on how he can best get to know his new teammates and their pitching tendencies.
“It’s probably a couple of weeks,” Nuñez said on how long it takes him to get on the same page with a new pitcher. “With a couple of the new guys, it’s just learning how the pitch breaks and the pitch shape. Then we’ll go back to Denver and see how things break there.”
What Black knows about Kuhl
When Colorado manager Bud Black met with the media on Tuesday morning, he had yet to see Kuhl throw in a Rockies uniform. However, there were plenty of personality traits he had learned about him from his time in Pittsburgh, including some words of wisdom from former Pirates manager and current Rockies special assistant to the general manager Clint Hurdle.
“Competitor, intense, a guy who will leave it all on the field,” Black said. “He will give it everything he has. He’s a fighter.”
Kuhl could well be Colorado’s fifth starter when the season opens … if he can win the job this spring. However, Ty Blach, Ryan Feltner, Peter Lambert, and Ryan Rolison are also in the mix for the Rockies rotation as well.
Colorado will start the season with five starters as the schedule begins with three games at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers followed by two games in Texas against the Rangers. The off day after the series in Texas will give Colorado a chance to reset the rotation.