Notes: Márquez debuts, Oberg progresses

March 8th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Manager Bud Black has spent Spring Training offering pitching-based assurance that the Rockies will be OK. On Sunday, he unleashed his No. 1 starter for a rotation -- a rotation that is the No. 1 reason for the skipper's calm.

Germán Márquez held the White Sox scoreless for three innings, with one walk and one strikeout, in the Rockies' 1-0, seven-inning victory on Sunday afternoon.

The Rockies’ projected win total fell -- if you believe social media -- when they traded third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals last month. But Black believes in a staff led by Márquez, one that has been in the top two in the National League in quality starts and starter innings pitched two of the last three years. Over the last four seasons, Márquez ranks in the top seven in the NL in strikeouts (625, sixth), starts (103, tied for fifth), innings pitched (613 2/3, fifth) and wins (41, tied for seventh).

“There’s a quiet confidence to Germán that he really believes he belongs in the conversation with some of the best pitchers in baseball,” Black said.

Márquez’s first spring start was not Cy Young quality, but there isn’t such an award in the Cactus League. The results were fine, with one strikeout and one walk, but he matter-of-factly zeroed in on his pitches from the stretch -- “staying back so I can throw the ball where I want” -- as an area that needs to be sharpened.

While the absence of Arenado leaves the offense with an All-Star-sized hole, the fact is, the biggest hope for the Rockies is their pitching. They feel good about the returnees to the rotation -- Márquez, Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray -- and lefty Austin Gomber, from the Arenado trade, has pitched well in camp.

“Some things [about the club] are defense, but that’s baseball,” Márquez said. “We have to keep moving forward, working hard, playing hard.”

Black is heartened by Márquez’s desire to improve.

“He’s still growing,” Black said. “We haven't seen the finished product yet with Germán. So that's exciting.

“That’s a great quality. He’s hungry.”

Behind-the-scenes progress

Righty Scott Oberg, who has not pitched a Major League game since late 2019 because of the recurrence of blood clots in his arm, is bouncing back from surgery he had in late September to remove the top rib on his right side. He has yet to appear in a Cactus League game, but is facing hitters at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

“My pitches are coming along,” Oberg, 14-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 114 2/3 innings over the 2018 and 2019 seasons, said Sunday. “I’m usually in the low 90s [mph] at this point, and I feel good about where the breaking stuff is.”

Oberg will throw a live batting practice Monday, then he, the coaches and the training and medical staffs will discuss his progress. He hopes to pitch in a Cactus League game by week’s end. Black said the hope is for Oberg to make eight appearances before the end of camp.

Senzatela on the mend

Righty Antonio Senzatela, who sustained a right hamstring strain on March 1, delaying his Cactus League participation, threw a “light side” session on Sunday with no problems.

Lefty rebound

After yielding five runs on three straight homers against the Mariners in his last outing, lefty bullpen hopeful Phillip Diehl was much sharper Sunday. He fanned two in a perfect inning for the save in the game against the White Sox.

“He got the two quick outs against the Mariners, then made some bad pitches,” Black said. “Today he didn’t. He threw strikes, had a good breaking ball, and his stuff looked fine. Good day for Phillip, showing the ability to bounce back.”

Righty Tyler Kinley struck out a batter in his inning while displaying a power slider. If the Rockies go without a lefty in the bullpen, expect Kinley to face left-handed parts of opposing lineups. Last season, Kinley held lefty hitters to a .111 batting average and a .196 on-base percentage in 51 plate appearances.

Prospect’s poise

Lefty Ryan Rolison, the Rockies’ No. 1 pick in 2018 and No. 2 prospect, threw two scoreless innings. He yielded a Yoán Moncada leadoff double in the fourth. Moncada made it to third with one out, but didn’t score because Rolison forced a short fly to left and a soft liner to the mound.

“He showed some pitchability,” Black said.

Rolison is likely to begin the year at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Up next

Lefty Kyle Freeland will make his Cactus League debut Monday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick against the Reds. Freeland and rotation hopeful Ryan Castellani are scheduled for three innings apiece.

Righty Jon Gray has yet to pitch in a Cactus League game, but he will throw three innings in a B game against the D-backs on Tuesday. Chi Chi González will start Tuesday’s Cactus League game against the D-backs.