Notes: Hampson's speed; Gray 'out of whack'

March 25th, 2021

The Rockies’ let it fly, his way, during Wednesday’s 9-8 victory over the Brewers in Phoenix.

A bunt single, two stolen bases and a run in the first inning; a walk, a wild pitch (that he goaded out of the Brewers’ Drew Rasmussen) and a run in the sixth -- it all illustrated Hampson’s preferred game.

One key was Hampson, a constant presence on the Statcast sprint speed leaderboard since debuting in 2018, batted second Wednesday. He likes batting high in the order, which he did last year, until he fell into bad habits with his swing and, in sporadic playing time, found himself lower in the lineup.

“For example, if there are two outs and the pitcher’s spot is up, you don’t want to make an out on the bases -- you’ve got to play the game smart down there,” said Hampson, who started Wednesday at second base but has been playing more center field than infield this spring. “When you’re hitting high in the order, No. 1 or No. 2, you’re trying to get into scoring position for the run producers, so it’s a big difference.”

The current “three true outcomes” era (walk, strikeout, home run) has drastically reduced the use of the stolen base. The 26-year-old Hampson, who wears his pant cuffs just below his knees, doesn’t mind being old-fashioned.

“If you look across the league, I guess it’s gone away a little bit, but there’s still a handful of guys that believe they cold steal 60 bags a year,” he said. “I think I’m one of those guys who can consistently get playing time and steal 40-50 bags.”

Detail attention
With the Rockies having lost home run potential by trading Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals and seeing David Dahl sign with the Rangers, they might need to ace situational-hitting tests. Until Wednesday in camp, they had not.

“I believe we’re right at 50%, maybe a little bit below 50% after yesterday,” said Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan, who watched Sam Hilliard, Greg Bird and Dom Nuñez strike out Tuesday after a Josh Fuentes triple. “So those are those are situations that we've got to take advantage of. In part to blame for that is strikeout rate.”

Magadan said it is a focus, but that browbeating players about striking out can have the opposite effect. The Rockies found the right attention level Wednesday. Their first three runs, all in the first two innings, scored on productive outs.

“Maybe we won’t have three guys hit 40 homers, but we’ve got to do the right things like today,” said Fuentes, who went 2-for-4 with four RBIs. “I grounded out [in the first inning] and got an RBI, and the guys were stoked. I want to drive it, but at the end of the day, runs matter.”

Painful lesson
Right-hander finished Wednesday with ice on his right hand and a lesson learned.

Gray put up his hands to block Kolten Wong’s third-inning liner, and the Rockies’ starting pitcher needed trainer attention, plus warmup pitches, to continue. Five batters later -- a messy stretch that included Christian Yelich’s grand slam and Travis Shaw’s two-run shot -- and Gray was out of the game. He was charged with seven runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Gray, who also gave up a first-inning leadoff homer to Wong, said everything changed after the liner.

“I was cruising until I got hit in the hand and then, like, my adrenaline spiked,” said Gray, who said he will be sore for a couple of days. “I got way out of whack. I didn't locate after that at all. It was weird. It was a complete 180.

“But yeah, that’s something I got to be aware of, because I can have it happen again.”

Pressure pitching
Rule 5 Draft pick Jordan Sheffield had his third straight scoreless outing, this one a bigger battle. Sheffield fanned two and walked one. The strikeouts of Omar Narváez and Daniel Robertson were competitive, and Luis Urías drew a walk on an eight-pitch plate appearance.

Sheffield’s recent work has shown progress with walks, which delayed him with the Dodgers (first-round pick, 2016 Draft) and cropped up earlier this spring.

Lefty push
Lucas Gilbreath, trying to make the jump from Class A in 2019 to the Majors, walked two to load the bases after replacing Gray, but induced Adrian Houser into a double-play grounder to prevent the inherited runner from scoring.

Gilbreath is in a heated contest with Ben Bowden, also seeking his Major League debut, for a left-handed bullpen spot.