Rookie righties display moxie out of Rox 'pen

Sheffield, Lawrence earning high-leverage opportunities in 2021

May 16th, 2021

DENVER -- Rockies rookie right-handed reliever Jordan Sheffield was happy Saturday night that his parents back in Tullahoma, Tenn., Travis and Misty Sheffield, are adept with their devices.

Sheffield was called into the biggest situation of his rookie year -- he succeeded in the 10th inning of the Rockies’ eventual 6-5, 12-inning loss. He came in just as his younger brother, Mariners left-hander Justus Sheffield, wrapped up his six strong innings in a 7-3 win over Cleveland.

“They have the MLB package, so they put one game up on the TV and the other on the phone,” Sheffield said. “It was a cool moment.”

Sheffield wasn’t the only Rockies rookie to come through in a big spot. Righty reliever Justin Lawrence was called into an even tighter jam -- the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the seventh. Down 2-1 in the count to Jesse Winker, who entered play Sunday leading the National League in batting average, Lawrence forced a soft infield grounder to end the frame.

“It was definitely a little bit [of a] different stage, but as a kid, you know when you're playing a game in the backyard it’s, ‘Hey, bases loaded, two outs, you’re coming in,’” said Lawrence, whose own technology-adept father, Lionel Lawrence, was proudly retweeting his son's success.

The Rockies are a struggling 15-25 going into Sunday afternoon’s finale against the Reds, but performances like the ones by Sheffield and Lawrence could be building blocks.

“Really big opportunities, big spots for those guys as rookies -- and they delivered,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Lawrence, facing the leading hitter in the league, threw a fastball for a ball and threw a breaking ball for what looked to be a strike that Winker fouled, then a fastball low, and then a fastball with a lot of velocity and good sink that got us out of a jam.

“Then Sheffield, big inning with a guy on second starting the inning and got through it with everything in check. These are growing moments for these guys as they start their careers. It’s a long year. At some point they’ll be in these types of games again.”

Sheffield added some drama to his inning by walking Nick Castellanos to start it, but said, “As soon as I threw that fastball to Castellanos, that pitch was done and I was thinking of the next hitter.” Tyler Stephenson grounded into a double play and Eugenio Suárez grounded out to end the situation.

Sheffield, 25, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Dodgers last winter, noted that the relievers are taught to prepare to be thrown into any situation and that mitigated any nerves that might have come with the phone call Saturday night.

“I try not to think about it too much,” Sheffield said. “I try to prepare the exact same way, stay within my routine. If a situation like that comes, I try to give my team a chance to win and compete.”

Lawrence, 26, who possesses top-level velocity from a low arm angle, said that he arrived at Spring Training expecting and planning for big situations.

“When I came to Spring Training, I wanted to be in the mix,” Lawrence said. “Not, ‘Oh, let’s give this guy a couple outings to get his feet wet.’ I wanted them to know right away that the work was done and I’m in a position to help the team out.”

Bowden to IL, Cron close

• Lefty reliever Ben Bowden, who left Saturday night’s game with a left shoulder strain, was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday. Lefty Lucas Gilbreath, who had been optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque a day earlier, was recalled. Gilbreath’s presence means that the Rockies keep one lefty in the ‘pen.

• First baseman C.J. Cron, who is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list Monday, stepped up his pregame activity with a full batting practice and fielding drills Sunday. Cron has been out since sustaining a lower back strain on a swing in the batting cage while the team was in St. Louis.