Notes: Rodgers exits early, Rolison, Freeland

March 14th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers left Saturday afternoon’s 2-1 victory over the Mariners with a right hamstring strain.

Rodgers, who sustained the injury during a steal attempt in the fifth inning, walked to the dugout and to the Rockies’ clubhouse without assistance. The injury puts a damper on a Spring Training that has seen Rodgers -- who knocked an RBI single directly before the injury -- bat .348 and look like a player embracing his first big chance to start in the Major Leagues.

“We’re going to evaluate overnight and again in the morning, and I’ll probably have more answers in the ensuing days, but I’m crossing my fingers,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Hopefully it’s just a mild strain.”

Second base, however, may be the position that the Rockies are best-equipped to absorb an injury. Projected starting outfielder Garrett Hampson and utility man Chris Owings are right-handed hitters who can handle the job. The Rockies can even play projected starting third baseman Ryan McMahon at second -- his position the last two years -- and go with Josh Fuentes at third.

In short, Rodgers will have time to make sure that he is healthy.

The Rockies’ top pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Rodgers, 24, has seen big league trials over the last two years end with right shoulder injuries. Both years, Rodgers was an in-season callup trying to make a mark.

But this year, after third baseman Nolan Arenado was traded to the Cardinals and McMahon was moved to third, second base was there for Rodgers to establish himself. With greater comfort in a Major League atmosphere, and with a better handle on footwork at the position after working with Reds veteran Dee Strange-Gordon during the offseason, Rodgers has looked the part this spring.

Rolison makes impression

Left-hander Ryan Rolison, 23, the Rockies’ top Draft choice in 2018 and the team’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, left lasting impressions with two pitches -- a 79.2 mph curve to freeze Mitch Haniger to end the first of his two frames, and a 92 mph fastball above the zone that Cal Raleigh swung under to complete his outing.

The strikeout of Haniger came with runners at second and third.

Rolison showed command and know-how by balancing a well-spotted fastball and curve in his first inning, then adding his changeup in his second frame. He also wasn’t flustered by the traffic on the basepaths in his first frame, and threw his inning-ending pitches with such conviction that he was practically walking off the mound by the time that the ball hit the catcher’s mitt.

“Your body language sets the tone for how the outing is going to go,” Rolison said. “I’ve been in that situation since I was a kid, all the way up to now. It’s not any bigger moment.”

Black said Rolison showed “a good mix of pitches and looked as if he had conviction with all of them. I like the tempo between pitches. He did a lot of good things.”

Freeland building

Starter Kyle Freeland breezed through four scoreless innings (three hits, four strikeouts, no walks) in his second start. After working just the fastball and changeup in his first start, which was also scoreless, Freeland added his slider Saturday.

“Next time out, it’ll be all pitches -- the focus will be on the curveball,” Freeland said. “I’ll continue to work the slider in my side and in my next start. That’s a pitch I rely on quite a bit.”

Bird lets fly

Left-handed-hitting non-roster bat Greg Bird continued his bid for an Opening Day spot with a ninth-inning walk-off homer off of Mariners reliever Matt Magill.

Bird, once a starter at first base for the Yankees, didn’t appear in the Majors last season because of a calf injury sustained while with the Rangers and a positive COVID-19 intake test with the Phillies.

Bird, 28, has shown knowledge of the strike zone throughout Cactus League play, and he has shown a sharper swing over the last couple days.

Bird could be in line for a bench role with occasional first-base duties, roles that ask for a self-assured performer. Injuries have limited Bird to 186 Major League games with the Yankees from 2015-18, but he is looked at as a seasoned player with the Rockies.

“It’s definitely a younger group. And I enjoy that,” Bird said. "It’s fun to share experiences with each other and build off that.”

Fastball hunted

The Mariners tied the game in the top of the ninth when Jantzen Witte homered on a 95.6 mph fastball from righty setup man Carlos Estévez, who has an 18.00 ERA during the spring.

“Just keep throwing; get his innings in, get his arm strength up,” Black said of Estévez. “I like the fact he got up to 96 mph today.”