Lawrence lifted to be trusted with Rockies' closer role

March 29th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PHOENIX -- Rockies manager Bud Black made no public declarations during Spring Training. Instead, he waited until just before Opening Day at Chase Field to walk down the first-base line with .

Not only did Black tell Lawrence he has first dibs on closing opportunities as the season begins -- but the manager added that he believes in the righty.

Lawrence felt lifted.

"He said just that he trusted me in any situation, the coaching staff is behind me, the team is behind me," Lawrence said. "It was encouraging to hear that right before Opening Day from the skipper.

"He talked about it a little yesterday, kind of let me know that's how we're going to start the season and go from there."

A closer wasn’t necessary in Thursday night’s season opener, when the Rockies set numerous dubious records in a 16-1 loss to the Diamondbacks. But the Rockies plan on needing Lawrence to ensure happier results.

Spring Training was ostensibly a contest between Lawrence and righty , who had a statistically better Cactus League. But Black went with the devastating potential of Lawrence's sweeper, and allowed him to work on the location of said pitch in spring ball.

Last year, his first full Major League season, Lawrence went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA and 11 saves in 69 appearances. Ironically, it was at Chase Field late last season that Black removed Lawrence from the ninth inning after a tough stretch -- and went to Kinley.

But the reasons that led Black to go to Lawrence last season -- with Daniel Bard finding himself on the injured list and Pierce Johnson traded to the Braves -- are still good reasons to believe he can succeed in the role.

Black was careful to note that it "takes a lot of guys" to hold onto a lead. But there were reasons to start with Lawrence -- such as his ability to rack up strikeouts and ground balls when hitting his location.

"I think he's ready to take off," Black said. "He's got two outstanding weapons -- a power sinker with movement, and a big, devastating breaking ball. We like that the guy doesn't scare off. He fields his position. He holds runners. He does a lot of things to help us out.

"But like all those guys in the bullpen, you've got to throw strikes. You've got to attack the strike zone."

Lawrence went on a torrid streak immediately upon becoming closer in 2023, but was every bit as cold before being replaced. Lawrence feels he learned lessons that should help him be even-keeled when hot, and identify and correct problems that lead to downward trends.

"Keep going, keep trusting," Lawrence said. "There are going to be ups and downs, but minimize them. It's a long season and you're going to have a two- or three-game stretch where it might not go the way you want. It's about stopping it there and not letting it turn into two weeks, three weeks, a month -- like it did last year. That was a learning curve.

"Nothing really specific. It boils down to mentality. It's nothing physical. It's nothing mechanical."