Freeland 'not too worried' about back spasms

February 28th, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- strolled out of the third-base dugout at Hohokam Stadium, ready to begin a third inning against the A’s.

The Rockies left-hander was so effective with his new windup and delivery that he cruised through the first two innings of Thursday’s game, and he was set to pitch one more, despite it being his first spring start. That was when Freeland’s outing abruptly ended.

After beginning to warm up for the third, Freeland departed with back spasms following an on-field consultation with head athletic trainer Keith Dugger. However, Freeland isn’t concerned that this will be a long-term issue, and he had a positive mindset shortly after his departure.

“It’s good," Freeland said. "It’s a little tight right now. It locked up on me a little bit when I was warming up, so just kind of decided to shut it down, not make anything worse out of it. It should be just a few days and be fine. I’m not too worried about it, [Dugger] doesn’t seem too worried about it, so we’re just going to take it day by day right now, but it shouldn’t be an issue.”

Rockies manager Bud Black expressed a similar sentiment, although it may affect when Freeland takes the mound again.

“My thought is, I think he’s going to be OK,” Black said. “He might not make his next start, but he’ll be fine.”

Freeland’s back was the only reason to be concerned following the outing, as he delivered a strong performance in his Cactus League debut.

In the first, Freeland retired Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson in order on seven pitches. He then made quick work of Khris Davis and Ramon Laureano to begin the second.

Then, Freeland’s only blemish came as he gave up an opposite-field home run to Chad Pinder. But Freeland bounced back by getting Robbie Grossman to ground out on one pitch to end the inning.

Throwing mostly fastballs and changeups, Freeland induced five groundouts, and he was pleased with his command in the outing, which he believes will be a confidence-builder for the rest of the spring.

“The work I put in this offseason with that new delivery paid off, and I was able to see that for two innings,” Freeland said. “I felt really good throughout my mechanics, ball was coming out great.”

This is an important spring for Freeland as the Rockies hope that the change in his delivery will help him bounce back from a tough 2019 campaign.

In Freeland’s first three big league seasons, he utilized a slight pause at the top of his windup, similar to the one used by Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Now, he’s winding up, lifting his leg and throwing the ball in one continuous motion.

Freeland had a breakout season in 2018, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts and finishing fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting. However, he couldn’t repeat that success in ’19, as he went 3-11 with a 6.73 ERA in 22 starts, and he had a midseason demotion to Triple-A Albuquerque.

“There were a lot of things going on that he put on his shoulders, and I do think it affected his performance,” Black said. “For a lot of pitchers, that’s natural. Being the hometown kid, where he was the year before, his performance, he wanted to do more. And a lot of times, that’s hard.

“I think for him, we’ve got to go back to basics a little bit and let’s focus on what’s truly important in the big scheme of this, and that is just true player performance. And all the other things will take care of themselves.”