Notes: Mujica shows potential; Jiménez returns

February 27th, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander left the Rockies clamoring for more Wednesday afternoon.

In the second of his two scheduled innings during a 4-3 victory over the Rangers at Salt River Fields, Mujica needed just four pitches. His first inning improved after a leadoff walk that led to a run.

It was an encouraging afternoon for Mujica, a prospect with the Rays who reached Triple-A in 2018, but missed last season because he underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2018. The Rockies signed him to a one-year contract in November.

“I pulled up the scouting reports and they said he was another guy with a starter-type repertoire -- a good, physical body, some strength to his arm, some feel to his changeup,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “You hear that from a young pitcher -- a good fastball with feel for a change -- it’s a pretty good combination.”

Mujica, 23, is part of the Rockies’ quiet buildup of starting depth. Once, and hopefully future, Rockies righty started and gave up one run and two hits over two innings Wednesday. Righty , who threw two scoreless innings against the Cubs on Tuesday, was a reliever for the Braves and Rockies last season. Righty , who will make his second Cactus League appearance Thursday against the Athletics, found his form at Double-A after stints in the Royals' and Mariners' systems.

Add those to the group competing for the big league starting rotation, and the Rockies could go into the season with options beyond the five who begin the year. Should Mujica pitch the way he did at Triple-A Durham in 2018 -- 5-1, 2.70 ERA, 34 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings -- he can provide desirable depth, rather than just being one of a lot of guys.

Mujica broke 92 mph with his fastball in his first inning, and was a little under 91 mph in the second. He sprinkled in a slider and a curve.

Comeback day

Jiménez was pitching for the first time since the 2017 season with the Orioles. He threw strikes on 14 of his 21 pitches. Jiménez is in camp under a Minor League contract, and has expressed an interest in going to Triple-A if he is not in the rotation, but he believes he can help the club at some point.

“I made the hitter see that I’m not going to be afraid to attack the strike zone,” said Jiménez, who forced five ground-ball outs. “The next game I’m going to throw everything I have. Today I only threw a slider and split.

“It might be only a start for anyone else. But for me, I’ve been out of baseball for two years. It’s a meaningful game for me today.”

One thing that didn’t mean anything to Jiménez was fastball velocity.

“Not even when I threw 300 mph,” he said, laughing. “I never cared about velocity.”

The reasons for moving

Left-handed-hitting , mostly an infielder during his Minor League career after being drafted in the eighth round out of Texas in 2017, added outfield last year at Double-A Hartford.

This spring one fly ball has sailed over his head for extra bases, and on Wednesday a catchable one dropped in front of him. But the Rockies like his skill set, and Wednesday he displayed a bat to match. He gave the Rockies their victory with a three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth off Rangers righty Jason Bahr. He batted .219 last year at Hartford, but had 15 homers. He is 6-for-9 this spring.

Boswell, 25, has been in Major League camp the last two years.

“Our player-development people really like the bat, and we saw a little bit of that last spring,” Black said. “He’s got a good swing. He’s got bat speed. He’s always on the fastball, which is a great trait. That was a good at-bat. He fouled some balls off and squared one up on the 3-2 count.”

Confirming the power

Black said he liked the power of righty when he pitched for the Marlins, before the Rockies claimed him off waivers this winter. Kinley struck out two for the save Wednesday in his second dominant spring outing.

“He has a really, really hard slider, 89-92 [mph], and the one he struck the second hitter out on was a really, really good one, had some depth to it,” Black said.

Up next

Lefty will unveil his new, smoother delivery in Cactus League play on Thursday when he faces the Athletics at Mesa, Ariz., at 1:05 p.m. MT.