DENVER -- The Rockies don't have time to lament the loss of righty reliever Adam Ottavino, who sources say signed Thursday with the Yankees for three years and $27 million. They're busy trying to make sure last year's investments -- same years and dollars -- in lefty Jake McGee and
DENVER -- The Rockies don't have time to lament the loss of righty reliever Adam Ottavino, who sources say signed Thursday with the Yankees for three years and $27 million. They're busy trying to make sure last year's investments -- same years and dollars -- in lefty Jake McGee and righty Bryan Shaw pay dividends.
Last year, Shaw finished 4-6 with a 5.93 ERA in 61 appearances, and McGee was 2-4, 6.49 in 61 games. One reason the pair's struggles didn't mortally injure the Rockies' postseason hopes was the performance of Ottavino, who struck out 112 in 77 2/3 innings.
Interestingly, on his way out the Rockies' door, Ottavino may have left Shaw and McGee a road map to effectiveness. After his own struggles in 2017 (2-3, 5.06 ERA), Ottavino recalibrated his mechanics and pitch design at Driveline Baseball in Kent, Wash., last winter.
By the end of 2018, which ended with neither Shaw nor McGee on the Rockies' postseason roster, the duo was turning its attention to improvement. Maybe they can pull an Ottavino-style turnaround.
"It is what it is for 2018, but let's honestly self-evaluate, put our guard down and figure out together how this is going to get better for the future," Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich said. "We certainly still believe in those guys. But they have a job to do."
Rockies bullpen coach Darren Holmes said conversations with Ottavino led to a trip to Driveline -- for Holmes, McGee, Shaw and righty Chad Bettis -- shortly after Colorado was swept by the Brewers in the National League Division Series.
Holmes not only pitched 13 seasons in the Majors but at one point worked as a biomechanics specialist with baseball players and Olympic athletes. Holmes signed on for the Driveline trip based on his background and Ottavino's endorsement.
"He knows if something is good or if it's 'eyewash' -- they're trying to make money off you," Holmes said.
When McGee, 32, joined the Rockies before the 2016 season, Holmes taught him how to throw a curveball. But McGee still relied on a fastball he has thrown 90 percent of the time over his nine-year Major League career -- and 742 of his 841 pitches last year, according to Statcast™.
However, knee and back injuries in recent years have led to McGee's average fastball velocity dropping from 95.5 mph in 2015 to 93.7 last season. Low early velocity was a warning sign in '18 when, in 24 of his 61 appearances, his average first-batter velocity didn't eclipse 93 mph.
Holmes said an improved slider will make the hitter account for it, which could help enhance a fastball even when velocity is down. Holmes recalled a June 28 matchup against the Giants' Brandon Crawford, when McGee threw four consecutive bouncing sliders and attracted three futile swings.
"His fastball is going to be better, because he has now incorporated an 82-83 mph slider to go along with a 95-97 mph fastball," Holmes said.
Shaw, 31, had a difficult time making his adjustments during the season because there was no ah-ha moment. The Rockies overlaid video of Shaw's cutter from 2014 to last season and found no difference, and Statcast™ shows little to no change in his release points each year from '15-'18.
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The biomechanical measurements, however, provided more information, not only on mechanics but offseason workouts. Holmes also said Shaw could be better after a year pitching in the unique Coors Field atmosphere.
"Whether Shaw will admit this or not -- we have talked about it -- I do think coming into Coors Field, things are a little bit different," Holmes said. "I think he came in probably thinking he had to spin his cutter a little bit more than what he actually did. I think that got him in a funk where he couldn't get the feel."
Holmes said both are on the right path -- one blazed by Ottavino.
"What made it comfortable for all those guys to go there was Otto went there the year before, came back and had a phenomenal year," Holmes said.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.