SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first competitive look at left-handed pitcher Austin Gomber in a Rockies uniform will come Sunday, when he starts the Cactus League opener against the D-backs at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Part of the return in the trade that sent star third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals, Gomber, 27, has his biggest chance yet to become a member of a Major League rotation. Last year with the Cardinals, Gomber went 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 14 games, including four starts. He was 6-2 with a 4.44 ERA in 29 games (11 starts) for the Cards in 2018, but he did not pitch in the Majors in ’19 due to biceps tendinitis.
“It looks as though his stuff is going to play in the big leagues,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “It’s a four-pitch mix. It’s an aggressive mentality to get his pitches in the strike zone. There’s some deception with his height [listed 6-foot-5] and his arm angle. Those are the things that sort of stick out.”
Through March 13, games may be shortened to five or seven innings upon mutual agreement of both managers. Black said the Rockies will have nine innings of pitching available for each game, and he wants games to last as long as possible so younger players get into games. On Sunday, the D-backs will have eight innings of pitching, so the Rockies will pitch in the top of the ninth and the game will end regardless of the score.
Gomber is slated to work two innings, and he will be followed by rotation competitor Chi Chi González for two innings. Scheduled for one inning apiece are lefty Phillip Diehl and righties Jordan Sheffield, Tommy Doyle, Heath Holder and Jesus Tinoco.
Monday’s game against the Dodgers at Glendale, Ariz., will feature the Dodgers on defense for six innings and the Rockies for seven. The Rockies will start former Giants righty Dereck Rodríguez for two innings, while prospect Helcris Olivarez is also slated for two frames. They will be followed by lefties Brian Gonzalez and Ben Bowden, and righty Julian Fernández.
Teams also can “roll over innings,” meaning an inning can end before three outs following a completed plate appearance if the pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches.
Worth the wait
Germán Márquez, Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray, who hold the first four spots in the rotation barring injury, will not pitch in the first few Cactus League games. They will continue their preparation with bullpen and live batting practice sessions before entering game action.
Development off the radar
Corner infield prospect Colton Welker is one of many whose development is tough to gauge because of the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season. But Black said Welker, who played at the Rockies’ alternate training site and is on the team’s 40-man roster this year for the first time, looks like he used the time well.
“Physically, he looks good -- he's stronger, he’s more fit,” Black said.
Welker, 23, batted .252 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs in 98 games at Double-A Hartford in 2019.