DENVER -- Left-hander Austin Gomber is struggling to throw a baseball because the circumstance that has him in the Rockies’ rotation weighs on him like a ball and chain.
Gomber was arguably the most important returning piece in the February 2021 trade that sent superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals, and he has pitched well at times in purple. But with poor outings increasing in frequency, he has taken pressure to the mound. It has led to ugly results.
After a loss that left the Rockies swept by the Pirates, as well as with their eighth straight loss and a 5-14 record, Gomber revealed his struggles.
“In the past, it was just try not to worry about it,” Gomber said. “I think I was better at that earlier on when I was here.
“I’d never been here, you know, so I didn't understand the magnitude of it. It’s just trying to keep those thoughts out of my head or just trying to not put pressure on myself. I don't mean to, right? I'm not trying to be [Arenado]. I'm just trying to be myself, but I feel like I'm having a hard time staying in that lane right now.”
It’s deeper than Andrew McCutchen’s home run, the Bucs’ four doubles and extremely poor pitch location. Gomber struggled to answer a question about strictly what happens over 60 feet, 6 inches.
“I feel like some points right now I'm just out there throwing with a lot of stuff going on,” Gomber said. “So if I can get back to worrying about pitching, then I'll be fine. That’s the easy part, getting into the game and pitching. It’s keeping everything else out.”
The trade angered fans who loved the now 10-time Gold Glove Award-winning Arenado. It angered them further because the Rockies are paying a reported $51 million of Arenado’s contract. Former general manager Jeff Bridich chose to trade an unhappy Arenado rather than risk him exercising his opt-out clause. But deals of stars from small- and mid-market teams to higher-profile franchises are rarely of equal value.
While Gomber posted a 2.09 ERA at Coors in 2021 before running into hard times last year and this year so far, the trade has aged poorly, with the last two days going by in dog years.
Gomber was a Major League-ready pitcher going to a Rockies team always in need of pitching. But also in the swap was Elehuris Montero, a third baseman with power potential who received his first big chance this year. On Tuesday, Colorado moved Ryan McMahon from second (where he was filling in for injured Gold Glover Brendan Rodgers) back to third after watching Montero struggle defensively.
Also included were Minor League pitchers Jake Sommers, who is still in the system but has dealt with injuries, and Troy Locey, who was traded to the Rays. Infielder Mateo Gil, the final piece, is now in Double-A with the Mets.
At least Gomber isn’t struggling alone.
During the eight-game losing streak, Rockies starters have posted a 9.92 ERA in just 32 2/3 innings. That figure would be worse if not for two quality starts: Kyle Freeland’s six-inning turn with two runs allowed against the Cardinals on April 11, and Noah Davis’ five scoreless innings at Seattle on Sunday. Gomber has reached double digits in ERA, while José Ureña carries a 9.82 ERA and Ryan Feltner will take an 8.78 ERA into Thursday night’s series opener in Philadelphia.
That means plenty of starters will be looking over their shoulders when Germán Márquez returns from right forearm inflammation, which has cost him one start and could knock him out of at least one more, and Antonio Senzatela completes his rehab assignment from a left knee injury that pushed him off the mound in August.
But Gomber is alone in being linked to the greatest third baseman of this era. He’s trying to reward “the people that had a lot of confidence in you and faith.” But it hasn’t always been that way.
“It’s not that I haven’t had success before,” he said. “It’s that I’m not doing it now.”