New reliever Dunn where he wants to be in Colorado

December 15th, 2016

DENVER -- doesn't mind waiting a long time for his dreams.

As an outfielder from Community College of Southern Nevada, he was selected by the Yankees in the 33rd round of the 2004 Draft. Dunn was converted into a pitcher, and he made the Majors after a five-year climb.

It turns out Dunn -- an accomplished lefty reliever with the Yankees (2009), Braves (2010) and Marlins (2011-16) -- signing with the Rockies on Thursday was the realization of another long-standing dream.

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Dunn lived in Farmington, N.M., through his junior year in high school, before moving to Las Vegas, which meant Denver was a good place for him to play in various youth tournaments.

"I was constantly playing, so I never got around to a game [at Coors Field]," said Dunn, who actually grew up a Mariners fan. "But when we got up here and were playing at tournaments, that's when I told my dad, 'I'll pitch in that stadium.' I'd never actually stepped foot in it."

Now, he will call Coors Field home. Dunn signed a contract guaranteeing him three years and $19 million, with the chance to earn an extra $1 million a year through a game-finished clause.

The match was an easy one. Dunn said he wanted to play closer to where he grew up, because he spends some time in the offseason in Farmington. And the Rockies, looking for a veteran boost at the back end of their bullpen, liked the idea of a pitcher who wants to be in Colorado.

Dunn, through his agent, Tom O'Connell, targeted the Rockies not just for proximity to home, but because he liked the young roster. Talks began at the General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., last month, and intensified this week after the Rockies completed a five-year, $70 million contract with , who will play first base.

Dunn's contract has plenty of incentive for him to win the closer's job -- he'll compete with three incumbents who have previously closed for the Rockies in , and . But Dunn said he'll do whatever new manager Bud Black asks, and general manager Jeff Bridich said discussions were less about the role, and more about Dunn's desire to join the Rockies.

"It was really more about opportunity, and a fit in the bullpen in a place that he wanted to be and a place that he was wanted," Bridich said. "In a common-sense and level-headed approach to all this, everybody involved understands that we'll figure it out as time passes, when we play actual games."

Dunn, who has struck out 25.6 percent of batters he has faced over his career, relies on a fastball and hard slider, although he also mixes in a curve. He still wants to incorporate a changeup, even though experimenting with the pitch during Spring Training in 2016 led to a two-month absence with a right forearm strain -- his first career stint on the disabled list.

Dunn said he overdid it early last Spring Training by "going zero to 100" -- throwing the change every other pitch in a two-inning outing on a back field.

After recovering, Dunn went 6-1 with a 3.40 ERA for the Marlins in 51 games. His strikeout rate lowered to a still-respectable 21.6 percent, as he traded some strikeouts for weak contact. He works up in the zone for strikeouts, and can give up fly balls, but as long as they're weak he is OK with it.

So there's no fear of Coors Field, and all kinds of mutual desire.

"Once we knew Colorado was involved and they were really interested, we kind of put everything else on the back burner and really wanted to focus on if there was really something here or not," Dunn said. "We did a little back and forth, then the phone conversations were, 'Here it is.'

"Instead of dragging it out, they came with their best bullet."