Rockies pithing coach Steve Foster knows lefty Kyle Freeland is up for a challenge. Foster fondly recalls having to pay for challenging him once.
Freeland has recovered from the left shoulder strain he sustained in Spring Training and will start Tuesday against the Mets, who will welcome back their two-time Cy Young Award-winning ace, Jacob deGrom, from the injured list.
Freeland finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting in 2018, when deGrom won it. After a rough 2019, Freeland put up solid numbers in 2020 and expected to build on that this year, but he has had to wait because of the injury.
Foster isn’t the least bit surprised Freeland is relishing facing one of baseball’s best.
“A couple of years ago, he was hitting about [.120] and he had five starts left in the season,” Foster said. “I said, ‘Dude, if you can just get three hits in five games -- maybe you’re going to get three hits in a game -- that’s 15 at-bats if you stay that long in the game, [I'll give you] $500.'
“First game out, he bunts for a single. Next game out, he gets a base hit. Then he goes hitless. The next-to-last game, he tops a ball in the infield and outruns it, and he’s giving me [five fingers] from first base. Kyle is a competitive dude, and there’s always intensity to what he is doing. There will be intensity tomorrow night, if it’s deGrom or whoever.”
Rockies claim Ruiz
The Rockies clamed left-handed-hitting infielder Rio Ruiz from the Orioles on Monday and optioned him to Triple-A Albuquerque. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Rockies designated for assignment infielder/outfielder Bret Boswell.
Ruiz, who turned 27 on Saturday, was designated for assignment by Baltimore on Tuesday, after he hit .167 with three home runs in 32 games this season. In regular duty with the Orioles from 2019-21 -- primarily at third base, although he was shifted to second base this year -- Ruiz hit .220 with 24 homers. Ruiz also saw time with the Braves from 2016-18 (.189 in 72 games) before being claimed by the Orioles.
Opportunity with the Rockies if Ruiz gains traction offensively exists in part because of a paucity of left-handed-hitting depth. With first baseman Matt Adams on the 10-day injured list with a right shin contusion, Ruiz would be the only lefty-hitting infielder other than lineup regular Ryan McMahon if he joined the big league club. Outfielder Sam Hilliard is the only other lefty position player on the 40-man roster not in the Majors.
“He was a prospect with the Braves and has some big league service time with a little bit of performance here and there,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He was a guy that our scouts and our front office had a long look at over the last number of days and had some good reports on him. So, you know, he'll go into Albuquerque and see what he can do.
“And, you know, we'll keep an eye on him and watch him. He adds some depth on the position-player side to our club.”
Boswell, added to the 40-man roster last offseason, is out for the season with a severe ankle injury he sustained at the alternate training site in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Adams on the mend
Black said Adams’ shin has healed, and he has joined Albuquerque on a rehab assignment. He'll go through pregame work Monday and play in games Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday.
“He's been down for a couple of weeks,” Black said. “His leg is healed. He's ready to go. So we'll get him back on the horse, get him current as best we can down there at Triple-A, see some live pitching. ... Hopefully, he's in a good spot for us to make a decision next weekend.”