Freeland eager to see results of his work

June 25th, 2020

DENVER -- With baseball shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rockies left-handed pitcher had more time than he ever expected to tinker in hopes of erasing a rough 2019 season.

“When it first started, in my mind I’m like, ‘Maybe we’re doing for two to three weeks, then maybe we’ll fire back up,’ but obviously that was not the case,” Freeland said on Thursday. “Once I realized this was going to be a lot longer than we thought, I devoted my time to making sure my mechanics are as clean as possible to continue my work on that, to continue to work on my pitches in bullpens and get them as ready as possible.

“So far it seems like it’s paid off.”

Freeland had a well-documented fall -- from 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA and a fourth-place finish in the National League Cy Young Award voting in 2018, to 3-11, 6.73 during a 2019 season that included an option to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Before Spring Training was halted in March because of the pandemic it seemed smoothing out his windup had Freeland well on his way to improvement. It looks as if he’ll get a chance to test it in games that count, as MLB announced a plan for a 60-game regular season to begin late next month.

“It’s been a very long time since the last time I’ve been in a true game setting, not even a Spring Training setting,” Freeland said. “It’s nice to have that distance from that time but still be able to reflect on it.

“But it also makes me very excited for the future and upcoming games, to show the kind of player I am and what kind of rebound I’d like to have.”

Here are some subjects Freeland touched on regarding his team and his view of baseball’s unusual 2020 during a wide-ranging interview Thursday:

How Rockies pitchers have stayed focused
Often with the aid of Zoom meetings, pitching coach Steve Foster has provided instruction and occasional motivational videos.

“We made them as fun as possible -- as fun as you can make a Zoom call with a bunch of guys and not be able to see everybody in person,” Freeland said. “They were productive. We got to listen to everyone, check on everybody, making sure everyone is safe and keeping up with their work.”

The Rockies’ mindset for the 60-game schedule
“I don’t believe anyone has looked at this season as, ‘Ah, let’s just look toward 2021,’” Freeland said. “I believe we have a group consensus of, ‘Let’s go out and win. It’s a shortened season. Everyone’s in the same boat here. Let’s go out and show what we’ve got.’”

His recent live batting practice sessions at Coors Field
As will be the case for at least the start of the season, there were no fans watching Freeland on the mound.

“We did live BPs not too long ago, and I was able to see that [adjustments] paid off with the results that I got from the swings, the action, movement, everything like that,” he said. “You try to get that intensity up. There was definite intensity. But it’ll be different when you’re in a true game setting.

“The stakes are extremely high just because of how short this season is going to be. You have to do the best you can to emulate that a crowd is there, keep your mind locked into that intensity and don’t back down.”

Extra innings starting with a runner at second base
Freeland saw this rule in practice during his time in the Minor Leagues last season.

“I actually dissected it and figured out,” Freeland said. “It’s usually the first team to score two runs, and whichever team is best at executing getting their bunts down. With trajectory -- all the stats out there, launch angle -- it’s somewhat of a lost art. But I think you’re going to see that art come back, guys relearning how to bunt and execute quality bunts.

“Either us or the other team execute a bunt, and [the defense] would walk the next guy depending on where they’re at in their lineup. Say a Nolan [Arenado] comes up or [Trevor] Story or Chuck [Blackmon]. You’ve got one out. See if you can get a double play out of this and gamble with a run. That’s going to come down to a managerial decision.”