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Rox camp already abuzz over young arms

Rookie success of Marquez, Freeland, Senzatela, Hoffman gives reason for optimism in sophomore campaigns
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Last year at this time, no one knew much about the Rockies' young starting pitchers. Now, with the 2018 camp opening for pitchers and catchers Wednesday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, folks can't stop talking about them.

Right-handers Jon Gray and Chad Bettis and lefty Tyler Anderson are still young. Still, they're seasoned in comparison to German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman -- a quartet that made 93 starts as rookies last season, when the Rockies went 87-75 and advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Last year at this time, no one knew much about the Rockies' young starting pitchers. Now, with the 2018 camp opening for pitchers and catchers Wednesday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, folks can't stop talking about them.

Right-handers Jon Gray and Chad Bettis and lefty Tyler Anderson are still young. Still, they're seasoned in comparison to German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman -- a quartet that made 93 starts as rookies last season, when the Rockies went 87-75 and advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

Video: Harding on Marquez developing into starter in 2017

It's a new year, but the confidence the Rockies' rotation earned last year still resonates. The front office added to that confidence with three-year contracts for a pair of newcomers -- closer Wade Davis and righty setup man Bryan Shaw.

"I'm not really feeling a lot of pressure," center fielder Charlie Blackmon said. "I feel like we are well-positioned to play better than we did last year and I am excited about the new additions to our club and I think we have all the pieces that we need to be very competitive. I am also excited to see how the young pitching from last year develops and makes their adjustments as they go into 2018. I think that'll be really exciting to watch."

Video: PIT@COL: Freeland uses jump throw to nab Bell

The key will be the steps the younger hurlers make. While only Marquez finished the season in the rotation -- a situation the Rockies have addressed by delaying the offseason throwing programs of the starters -- opponents still saw plenty of them. And since Marquez led Major League rookies with 11 wins and Freeland and Senzatela tied for second with 10, opponents will be motivated to counter their effectiveness.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"We've got to guard a little bit against the sophomore season of four guys specifically -- Freeland, Marquez, Senzatela and Hoffman," second-year manager Bud Black said. "Those guys won some games for us last year, made a lot of starts for us. Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, those guys, in my opinion, are still growing. They're not finished. Chad's game is pretty solidified. Chad is in a place where there's not a lot that he needs to work on or do. He just has to just continue to refine and perfect his game."

Video: LAD@COL: Bettis hurls seven strong to earn the win

The arrival last season of Black, a former Major League starting pitcher and pitching coach who also ran strong staffs as manager of the Padres from 2007-15, helped the young starters on their entry to the Majors. The Rockies had already put their efforts into development, starting with the hiring of Mark Wiley as director of pitching operations in '12, followed by the hirings of pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes. Black topped off the group. The hope is his presence continues to shorten the learning curve for the young starters.

Video: COL@CHC: Senzatela K's Bryant to strike out the side

"[Black has] added a pretty natural presence that way," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. "He's combined with Steve, Darren, Mark Wiley and [Minor League pitching coordinator] Darryl Scott, and a lot of people who have worked with our Major League, Triple-A grouping. Buddy's added a nice calmness and a nice experience piece to that. I would say there are very few of those veteran-type pitchers that stick around in one place. It's a little bit different than it used to be with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, [Adam] Wainwright -- 15 years straight in one place."

But let's not look at 15 years just yet. The young rotation and revamped bullpen are causes for optimism, and there is a lineup that produces runs, plus a stellar infield defense. But there's also quite a bit of time for Spring Training's wildness -- injuries and surprises.

Video: PHI@COL: Hoffman fans eight, allows one run in seven

"You don't want to look too far ahead," third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "You want to make sure it's one step at a time -- go to Spring Training, try to stay healthy and go from there. But there's an excitement. Sometimes there's a little too much excitement, you look past it and then the games start to catch up on you and you're a few games behind. So we've got to take it one step at a time."

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, Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela