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Freeland gets nod to start home opener

Lefty would make MLB debut in his hometown
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

MILWAUKEE -- Denver native Kyle Freeland is officially a member of the 2017 Rockies, and that much closer to making his Major League debut in his hometown.

The Rockies completed their roster Sunday by selecting the left-handed Freeland's contract. Freeland, 23, the Rockies' top pick in 2014 out of the University of Evansville and a Thomas Jefferson High graduate, won a rotation spot by going 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA in six games (20 2/3 innings) this spring, with 19 strikeouts against six walks.

MILWAUKEE -- Denver native Kyle Freeland is officially a member of the 2017 Rockies, and that much closer to making his Major League debut in his hometown.

The Rockies completed their roster Sunday by selecting the left-handed Freeland's contract. Freeland, 23, the Rockies' top pick in 2014 out of the University of Evansville and a Thomas Jefferson High graduate, won a rotation spot by going 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA in six games (20 2/3 innings) this spring, with 19 strikeouts against six walks.

Freeland joins Shawn Chacon and John Burke among pitchers who were either born or raised in Colorado and made their big league debut for the Rockies.

The rotation should be set for Freeland to start Friday's home opener against the Dodgers. Manager Bud Black has announced that the first three starters will be righty Jon Gray, lefty Tyler Anderson and righty Tyler Chatwood on Wednesday. The Rockies moved righty Antonio Senzatela's final spring start to Saturday to line him up for Thursday's finale of the season-opening series against the Brewers.

"I think it's a great story," Black said of Freeland earning a spot. "I think it's cool. I think it's awesome. [Kyle] is fired up. I mean, I told him and he said this is something he's dreamt about his whole life."

Video: MIL@COL: Freeland fans five over four scoreless

To make room for Freeland, the Rockies designated for assignment right-hander Miguel Castro, who earlier had been optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque. Castro, part of the trade with the Blue Jays that sent away star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, burned brightly last April (1.50 ERA, .182 average against, eight strikeouts in six innings), but suffered right shoulder inflammation, ended up bouncing between Triple-A Albuquerque and the Majors and had an awful Cactus League (15.75 ERA in five games).

When asked about the decision to designate Castro, Black said, "These things are thought out and I think it shows the strength of the 40-man roster. That's how I took it."

In other moves, the Rockies placed on the 10-day disabled list right-handed pitchers Jairo Díaz (recovery from Tommy John surgery) and Chad Qualls (right forearm tightness), left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin (right oblique strain), catcher Tom Murphy (fracture, right forearm), infielder Ian Desmond (fracture, left hand) and outfielder David Dahl (stress reaction, sixth rib).

The Rockies also have right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis on the 60-day DL as he undergoes chemotherapy for testicular cancer.

Freeland's rise to the Opening Day roster came after a solid performance in 2016 at Double-A Hartford (5-7, 3.87 ERA in 14 starts) and Albuquerque (6-3, 3.91 in 12 starts). He might have made a debut at the end of last season, but the Rockies stopped him at 162 innings. The previous year he dealt with left shoulder soreness and scar tissue in the elbow area, so the Rockies were cautious with him.

After yielding four runs in two innings against the Dodgers in his first Cactus League outing this year, Freeland held opponents to five runs in his final five appearances covering 18 2/3 innings.

The rotation announcements also mean righty German Marquez, who appeared in six games (three starts) late last season (1-1, 5.23 ERA), will begin the year in the bullpen.

Marquez, 22, went 1-0 with a 6.00 ERA in six Spring Training games, with 15 strikeouts and seven walks. He fanned eight and walked one in his final two Cactus League appearances, and struck out another five in a Minor League game. The Rockies like Marquez's fastball but want him to improve the consistency of his secondary pitches.

"I think Marquez is going to help us in the bullpen," Black said. "...When I told him he was on the big league team, boy, did he smile. And I said, 'You're going to be in the bullpen.' And he goes, 'Anything you need. ... I'll be ready.'"

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Kyle Freeland