SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Chi Chi González is letting his low moment, and the words of a veteran, lift him. Tuesday afternoon’s three scoreless and impressive innings in a 5-5 tie with the Reds could indicate that what he learned from a messy performance last Aug. 29 could propel him to win the fifth starter's spot.
At Coors Field against the Pirates that day, González served a Daniel Newman homer on the first pitch. In just 27 pitches, he yielded seven runs and seven hits and managed just two outs. His review of the video was harsh.
“Immature, like I almost gave up. ... I let the game speed up on me,” González said. “I was thankful that Ian Desmond was watching video next to me. He was like, ‘Dude, you’re great. You’ve shown great to us. You have good stuff. It sucks that it happened to you, but it’s gonna happen.’
“First pitch of the game, home run, and I was, ‘OK, one of those games,’ instead of taking it as, ‘That’s my only run I’m going to give up this outing.’ Some days you’re going to have your stuff. Some days you’re not. It’s the ability of you not mentally giving in.”
Properly focused and no longer bashing himself, González went 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA and a .167 batting average against, with 26 strikeouts against 11 walks, in his final five games (four starts).
That lesson came in handy this spring.
Through his first two appearances, he had a 15.75 ERA. But on Thursday, he threw three scoreless innings against the Royals. On Tuesday, González faced trouble in the third but forced a Christian Colón double-play grounder, and he fanned Nick Senzel for his third strikeout.
Even if González struggles, there are better pitches ahead.
“Chi Chi always possesses the poise and calmness that you want out of a Major League pitcher,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He knows his weapons. He knows what he needs to do to get his out. He doesn’t waver from that. We always feel Chi Chi’s mind is always going to be in the right spot.”
González, Peter Lambert (who left Tuesday’s game after 1 1/3 innings with what Black called “right forearm tightness”), righty Jeff Hoffman and non-roster righty Ubaldo Jiménez are competing for the fifth spot. It’s possible one who isn’t in the rotation could begin the year in the bullpen.
González, 28, was a first-round Rangers pick in the 2013 Draft. He had a strong spring in '15 but wasn’t on the Major League roster and wasn’t going to break camp with the big club, though he pitched his way to the Majors for three trials. But eventually, elbow problems short-circuited his chances and led to Tommy John surgery in '17. Because of the curves in his story, this is his first chance to make an Opening Day roster.
“In ’15, mentally I had a good chance, pitched well, but it just wasn’t my time yet,” said González, who has a Minor League option. “But that helps me out. This is the first year I feel 100 percent healthy, and they’re confident in me in whatever role they put me in.”
Lambert escaped two hits and a walk in the fourth, partly by forcing Derek Dietrich’s double-play grounder. Then Lambert allowed Jose Garcia’s fifth-inning leadoff homer and Alex Blandino’s single before leaving after forcing a Christian Colón groundout.
Sure is nice to wear a glove
Brendan Rodgers, Colorado's top prospect per MLB Pipeline, played second base in the seventh inning -- his first defensive game action since undergoing surgery to repair his right shoulder labrum in July. He also delivered an RBI single in his first at-bat.
Rodgers, originally not counted on at the Major League level until May, hopes to prove his health and make the Opening Day roster.
Lefty Jake McGee, who struggled through a sore left knee and inconsistency last season, pitched a scoreless seventh with a strikeout and a walk. McGee has been working on a slider, since the upper-90s fastball he threw for the Rays earlier in his career is no longer. But he completed the outing with a firm, 94-mph heater to strike out Phillip Ervin.
Righty Germán Márquez will start against the White Sox on Wednesday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick at 2:10 p.m. MT. The pitcher to watch, however, is righty reliever Bryan Shaw. He enters with a 10.38 ERA in five appearances. That’s not unusual: He has a 6.43 career spring ERA. But coming off some rocky performances the past two years, Shaw wants to hone his pitch shapes heading into the final year of a three-year, $27 million contract.