Hoffman making play for spot in Rockies rotation

March 10th, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Jeff Hoffman is leaving the worrying to the Rockies’ decision makers.

Hoffman fanned five in four scoreless innings of the Rockies’ 5-1 victory over the D-backs in Monterrey, Mexico, on Saturday night to continue his bid to push his way into one of the Majors’ best young rotations.

Hoffman, acquired in the 2015 trade that sent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays, has a 3.60 ERA in four Spring Training outings. But all four runs, two of the three walks and three of the seven hits off him came in one game. In the others, he has struck out eight of the 32 batters he’s faced.

“I’m really comfortable with my delivery right now, and it’s allowing me to not really worry about anything other than letting it rip,” Hoffman said.

After a right shoulder injury last spring and mixed numbers at Triple-A Albuquerque (6-8, 4.94 ERA in 21 starts) and in the Majors (9.35 ERA in six games, one start), Hoffman, 26, entered camp having to impress and maybe needing an injury in front of him. Well, he’s taking care of what he can.

Hoffman did not receive a Major League callup in September, mainly because the Rockies didn’t need a starter and his style did not transfer to the bullpen. On Sunday, manager Bud Black said he’s “probably not” looking at Hoffman as a reliever if he doesn’t make the rotation. Just as important, Hoffman sees himself as a starter.

Going into camp, four spots were thought to be secure, with veteran righty Chad Bettis penciled into the fifth. Right-hander Antonio Senzatela, who was on the postseason roster last year, and Hoffman were seen as Bettis' competition. Now lefty Tyler Anderson, with a 7.88 spring ERA, could see his spot up for a challenge.

Black, who didn’t make the trip to Mexico, likes that Hoffman is nailing the assignment to make his fastball and breaking pitches begin on the same line. After a winter of physical preparation and mechanical attention, Hoffman and bullpen coach Darren Holmes made a small tweak to aid the process.

If the curve pops higher out of the pitcher's hand than his fastball, hitters can identify it. But Hoffman left the D-backs wondering, and wanting, on Saturday night.

“His goal, or his thought process of how he sees himself as a pitcher, is to use his words, ‘I want to be a power pitcher,’” Black said. “You know what I said? I said, ‘Great, so do I. Be a power pitcher, but we’ve got to get the ball in the strike zone.’

“Last night, watching video, the delivery looked good. He repeated it. He got the ball in the zone. The curve was good, the change was good. That was a good outing. He’s still maturing.”