Blackmon getting hot while adjusting at plate
Plan is to become more aggressive as season progresses
HOUSTON -- Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is accumulating hits this month, after a sparse second half of May. But to hear him tell it, the difference isn't huge.
After hitting .151 (8-for-53) with two home runs in 16 games from May 16-31, Blackmon exited Monday night's 6-3 loss to the Astros having hit .298 (17-for-60) with two doubles and a homer since June 1.
"My swing feels the same -- I haven't really felt locked in yet," Blackmon said, before going 0-for-3 in the No. 9 slot. "I've just felt average."
His eight homers before Monday tied him for third among leadoff hitters, in a positive follow-up to a 19-homer 2014 season that was second best among leadoff men in the Majors. But his.422 slugging percentage was 20th among No. 1 hitters in 2015. Last year, he slugged .446, ninth best.
Blackmon earned an All-Star Game invitation last year, but teams targeted him with new pitching plans as the season continued. Blackmon struggled in the middle months but adjusted toward the end.
Not only are opponents strategizing against Blackmon, but he emphasized working counts. His 3.86 pitches per plate appearance are down from his 4.00-plus earlier, but is still a career high.
"Later in the season, I will have seen most of the pitchers I'm going to face and have a good idea what they're going to do," Blackmon said. "Later on, I expect to be more aggressive."
Rockeis manager Walt Weiss said of Blackmon: "Even when he's not locked in he finds a way to help you win games."
Rockies first-base coach Eric Young, a successful former Rockies leadoff man, said Blackmon's studiousness puts him in position to succeed.
"Now he's got to make sure he sticks to his plan, understands what he just saw on the video and apply it and react rather than think so much on the field," Young said.
• Lefty Tyler Matzek, who made five starts before being sent down to Triple-A Albuquerque in May and hasn't pitched in a game since a messy first Triple-A outing, will start this week's home-opening series for Short-season Class A Boise. Matzek pitched in an extended spring game against a Giants club last week.
"He's been working hard, and the goal is to work with him and get him back to the Major League level as quickly as we can," Rockies player development director Zach Wilson said.
• Left-hander Kyle Freeland, last year's top Draft pick out of the University of Evansville, is at Rookie-level Grand Junction rehabbing from a surgery to remove six pieces of scar tissue from his throwing elbow. Freeland experienced left shoulder fatigue this spring.
The Rockies are making sure he adheres to an arm strengthening program. Beyond saying they hope he can pitch in games this summer, the Rockies haven't announced a timetable for his appearing in competition.
"Having that athlete's mentality, and you're only supposed to be throwing 90 feet at 70 percent, you kind of want to push it, throw at like 80 percent and back up a few feet, but you've gotta listen to the trainers because they have a set plan for you," Freeland told the Grand Junction Sentinel newspaper.
• There has been little progress in the condition of first baseman Justin Morneau (concussion symptoms, cervical neck sprain). He's had to wait for the concussion symptoms to fade before strengthening the neck. Weiss said he believes Morneau will return before season's end.