Hill flashes 'good, big arm' in Cactus debut
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Right-hander Jaden Hill provided Chapter 2 of the Rockies showing their fans a pitching future they believe will be bright.
Hill, 23, the team’s 2022 second-round Draft pick out of LSU, displayed his upper-90s fastball/mid 80s changeup combo Tuesday night against a representative Padres lineup in the Rockies’ 14-2 loss.
Rockies 2022 top pick Gabriel Hughes threw three scoreless innings in an eye-popping Cactus League debut against the Dodgers on Monday. Hill, who struck out one, gave up a run and hit one in his two innings, drew equal raves for his Cactus League debut.
“I liked the poise, first of all -- the pitcher, himself, showed composure,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He looked under control, repeated his delivery, didn’t look uncomfortable.
“He’s got a good, big arm, like we knew coming in.”
The Rockies drafted Hill after he had a 2021 Tommy John surgery. He saw minimal action in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League (seven outings) and Single-A Fresno (three). On Tuesday, he showed why the Rockies were willing to wait for him.
Hill, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization's No. 9 prospect, entered against the Padres in the third inning and needed only five pitches to get three outs -- four fastballs from 96-98 mph, and an 86 mph changeup. That induced three ground-ball outs from Trent Grisham, Luis Campusano and David Dahl.
Hill faced the top of the lineup the next inning. Fernando Tatis Jr. singled along the ground and Matt Carpenter drove him in with a two-out single. The highlights were a changeup that put away a swinging Manny Machado, and a first-pitch slider -- a developing pitch the Rockies believe will be above average -- to Xander Bogaerts. But Hill hit Bogaerts with a change, which led to the run.
“I just liked the overall confidence that he showed tonight,” Black said.
On the back fields
Lefty Austin Gomber, who has quietly solidified his delivery, threw six scoreless innings (two hits, five strikeouts, one walk) in a Minor League start against the D-backs. Lefty reliever Brent Suter went two scoreless innings, with four hits, two strikeouts and a walk.
Lefty Ty Blach, making a push for one of the bullpen jobs and possibly long relief duty, is scheduled for three Minor League innings on Wednesday.
Is there still time?
Righty Jake Bird, who sustained an oblique strain early in camp, gave up a one-out single but was otherwise clean in the sixth inning against the Padres in his first Cactus League outing. Righty Gavin Hollowell, in his second appearance since returning from back soreness, threw a scoreless fifth with a strikeout. Luis Campusano’s one-out double nearly left the park, but two subsequent fly balls ended the frame.
Both Bird and Hollowell saw Major League time last year, and they hope there is enough time left to earn spots on the Opening Day roster.
Serven’s offensive struggles
Catcher Brian Serven is batting .189 over 37 spring at-bats -- a high number because regular starter Elias Díaz was away with Colombia in the World Baseball Classic. As a rookie last season, Serven showed promise as a receiver but had a slash line of .203/.261/.332 with six home runs.
“It doesn’t have to be a .300 average, doesn’t have to be a .350 on-base, but we’d like to think he can provide a little bit more than what he did last year,” Black said.
A question in the final Spring Training days is whether the Rockies seek a more experienced or more offensive catcher to share time with Díaz, who has had his own ups and downs with the bat.
Depth is a question because Willie MacIver, ticketed to be the priority catcher at Triple-A Albuquerque, is nursing a right shoulder injury and will not be available when the regular season starts. Non-roster invitee Jonathan Morales, a 28-year-old former Braves farmhand who batted .308 in 86 games at Albuquerque last season, is still in camp.