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Freeland working through kinks of new mechanics

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Before a solid rookie season in 2017, Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland added a little stop and kick -- "the Kershaw pause," he called it -- to his delivery. He won 11 games, and nearly threw a no-hitter, but some bad habits developed as well.

This year, Freeland has figured he doesn't have to be Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' ace. Tuesday afternoon, while pitching a solid 4 2/3 innings in the Rockies' 8-7 win against the Mariners, Freeland showed that being himself just may be good enough. He gave up two runs on six hits, but struck out five and walked none.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Before a solid rookie season in 2017, Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland added a little stop and kick -- "the Kershaw pause," he called it -- to his delivery. He won 11 games, and nearly threw a no-hitter, but some bad habits developed as well.

This year, Freeland has figured he doesn't have to be Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' ace. Tuesday afternoon, while pitching a solid 4 2/3 innings in the Rockies' 8-7 win against the Mariners, Freeland showed that being himself just may be good enough. He gave up two runs on six hits, but struck out five and walked none.

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Rockies pitching coordinator Darryl Scott negotiated the pause -- originally adopted to keep his weight gathered at the top of the windup -- out of his delivery in November, after Freeland had gone 11-11 with a 4.10 ERA with 107 strikeouts, but walked 63, in 156 innings.

Freeland, most likely competing with Antonio Senzatela for a rotation spot, has a 5.68 ERA in 12 2/3 innings this spring. Arguing in his favor are his 12 strikeouts against three walks. His new-look delivery is part of that, since he is better able to keep his momentum toward his target.

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"We both agreed that I needed to find something that makes me more directional and gets rid of my front leg swing that was making me rotational," Freeland said.

The new/old mechanics aren't quite there yet. He gave up a run in each of the first two innings, when he yielded five of the hits, before settling in. Freeland said he needs to guard against too speedy a tempo at the start of games.

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"Darren Holmes [the Rockies' bullpen coach] came to me after the second and told me that my tempo on the mound was looking a little quick," Freeland said.

Rockies manager Bud Black said the areas Freeland must address are as simple as they are important.

"It's just getting back to fundamental pitching -- strike one, limit the walks, pitch to your strength, get your ground balls," Black said. "I don't want Kyle to do too much as far as overthrowing the ball, coming out of his delivery. He's got to stay within himself."

Position competition

• Outfielder David Dahl launched his fourth spring homer -- a second-inning leadoff shot off Rob Whalen (who struck out nine in five innings). Since an 0-for-15 start, Dahl is 9-for-29 (.310) with four homers, a triple and 13 RBIs. 

Dahl was limited to 77 Minor League at-bats over 19 games last season because of a rib injury. With Carlos Gonzalez re-signed to a one-year contract, one option is to have Dahl receive regular at-bats at Triple-A Albuquerque. But, if he stays hot this spring, especially against front-line pitching, he at least offers an argument as a dangerous left-handed bat and capable defender off the bench. Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman, who handled bench roles when called up last season, plus outfielder/first baseman Jordan Patterson and right-handed-hitting outfielder Noel Cuevas are among competitors.

• Cuevas, who has a .400 average (10-for-25), delivered a patient sacrifice fly in the eighth.

• Non-roster infielder Daniel Castro, who is in line for an Opening Day roster spot if Pat Valaika isn't back from a left oblique injury, charged a tapper from speedy Dee Gordon and threw in time to get the out in the fifth. Castro played shortstop, and could be valuable if Trevor Story isn't available in a game.

• Patterson played right field and delivered a standout defensive play. He fielded Tuffy Gosewisch's fly ball to right, and threw out Gordon Beckham at the plate to end the top of the eighth. He also delivered a ninth-inning double.

• Catcher Tom Murphy, trying to earn Major League opportunities, doubled in a run in the bottom of the eighth. He is 5-for-28, but his hits include two home runs, as well as the double. Murphy also drew a two-out walk in the ninth, before Derrik Gibson's game-winning single.

Black noted that Murphy had to make a deft tag on Beckham after Patterson's throw short-hopped, and made a nice block of a Bryan Shaw pitch that bounced to prevent a possible wild pitch in the top of the ninth.

Video: SEA@COL: Murphy plates Hampson with a double

Painful experimentation

Ian Desmond doubled in Monday's game against the D-backs, but the adjustment of his hands in his batting stance is by no means complete. Desmond struck out in all three of his at-bats Tuesday, and is now 2-for-28 with 14 strikeouts this spring.

Up next

Right-hander Jon Gray, looking to rebound after yielding six runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings in his last outing, will face the Dodgers in Glendale, Ariz., at 7:05 p.m. MT on Wednesday. Two relief candidates, righty Jairo Diaz and lefty Zac Rosscup, also are scheduled. Watch the game live on MLB.TV and MLB Network.

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

Colorado Rockies, Kyle Freeland