Pint's presence in Rox camp speaks volumes
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Last year, merely seeing Riley Pint in a baseball uniform was a feel-good story. Now Pint has a chance to reward the Rockies for their faith.
The Rockies chose Pint with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan. But after a lost period, which included him leaving the sport during the 2021 season, Pint is in his first Major League camp at age 25.
The right arm capable of a 100-plus mph fastball is intact. He struck out 58 in 45 2/3 innings combined at Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque. As important, his smile and confidence appear here to stay.
It’s unusual for a pitcher with a powerful build and a strong arm, coupled with his draft status and $4.8 million signing bonus, to be considered a camp underdog. But here we are. The closest Pint has been to the Majors is three appearances last season at Albuquerque.
Since the middle of last season, the Rockies have added veterans Dinelson Lamet, Pierce Johnson and Brent Suter to the bullpen. Some notable young pitchers received their first opportunities last season, and non-roster depth has improved. But Pint’s raw stuff makes him a candidate to make noise in camp -- and to be an option later if he doesn’t wrestle an Opening Day spot.
“It’s been a long time coming, especially for me to get to this point,” Pint said.
Pint walked 134 and hit 21 more in his first 166 2/3 professional innings. He then informed the Rockies he was walking away during the 2021 season. But player development director Chris Forbes, who took the job during the ’21 season, kept dialogue open. Pint returned last season for Minor League camp.
Walks (31) and hit batters (eight) were still high last season, but Pint was effective enough at Hartford to earn a promotion to Albuquerque. The Rockies quickly shut Pint down because of a right forearm issue, but Pint said it was arm fatigue and there were no lasting effects.
Not even the arm issue could put a damper on his 2022.
“I just basically came to the field every day with a good attitude and a good smile, and things started to work out and go in my favor,” Pint said. “And with the group of guys in Hartford, it was easy to have fun. I know a lot of guys in this locker room now, so it’s going to be a pretty seamless transition.”
Pint’s bullpen sessions have drawn raves.
“He’s somebody that, if he’s right, he’s a wild card,” said Doug Linton, the Rockies’ Minor League pitching coordinator. “I hope he’s right, because I love this kid. Every sign has been electric.
“What we see on the side is everything is more consistent. He’s got a better idea where his pitches are going. He’s going to be 95-99. That’s where he’s going to live. His breaking ball is filthy. He’s throwing more two-seamers, but it’s a bottom-out two-seamer. And his changeup is good, too. He’s getting it.”
Pint is getting rid of the negatives that can come with expectations. He doesn’t mind being a player fans can identify with because of his challenging times. In camp, he has paid attention to closer Daniel Bard, who overcame control and anxiety issues that kept him out of the Majors from 2014-19 but now is the Rockies’ closer and a member of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
“I was a young kid, and a lot of stuff was new, foreign to me,” Pint said. “I didn’t know how to deal with those failures, or just not doing well. For me, it’s just going to be learning, continuing to grow and proving myself as a baseball player.
“At the end of the day, for me to be the best I can be I’ve got to play free and play loose. That’s what the Rockies are giving me the ability to do -- just be who I am and compete with the best of my ability, which I know is pretty good. It’s great to have them in my corner.”