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Freeland fires 6 innings in final spring start

Rockies lefty allows 2 runs to Reds, building up to 76 pitches
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Friday was Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland's turn to flip on the regular-season light.

After spending much of the spring honing a cleaner delivery and making himself throw offspeed pitches, Freeland held the Reds to two runs in six innings in an 8-2 Cactus League victory at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

View Full Game Coverage

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Friday was Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland's turn to flip on the regular-season light.

After spending much of the spring honing a cleaner delivery and making himself throw offspeed pitches, Freeland held the Reds to two runs in six innings in an 8-2 Cactus League victory at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

View Full Game Coverage

With the exception of not placing a couple of pitches in the right location to Billy Hamilton -- and giving up a triple and a double as a result -- Freeland's performance resembled some of his better games from last year, when tied with teammate German Marquez for the MLB lead in rookie wins with 11.

Rockies Spring Training info

Freeland threw strikes on 55 of his 76 pitches and induced seven ground-ball outs. He escaped the first inning by inducing a double-play grounder from Eugenio Suarez.

Video: CIN@COL: Arenado, LeMahieu complete 5-4-3 double play

In 33 games (28 starts) last year, Freeland induced 17 double-play grounders, which tied him with teammate Antonio Senzatela for 17th in the National League. Neither was in the rotation the whole season.

"The defense behind me is one of the best in the business," Freeland said. "I'll take ground balls all day."

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Freeland continued a solid run by the Rockies' rotation that began Monday with a dominant 6 1/3 innings from righty Jon Gray, the presumed starter for Opening Day next Thursday at Arizona.

"I watched Jon's start on TV, and it was pretty amazing," Freeland said. "He was consistent with all his pitches. He was throwing up in the zone. He was doing really well. That kind of trickles down to everybody else. The bar has been set, and we need to reach and get above that."

Video: COL@TEX: Gray tosses 6 1/3 shutout innings

At his best, Freeland forces weak contact.

"His glove-side command -- away to the lefties, in to the righties -- was very good," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "I liked the fact that he threw a number of changeups. We've still got a ways to go with that, but he's getting better, he's getting more confident in it."

Video: CIN@COL: Freeland K's Peraza swinging in the 2nd

Well, it counted to him
In the fourth inning, after Nolan Arenado knocked a two-run homer off Reds righty Homer Bailey, Carlos Gonzalez followed with his first homer of the spring. It was Gonzalez's sixth Cactus League game after signing with the Rockies mid-spring.

"There are way more important things right now when it comes to Spring Training, but you want to have results -- once in a while see the ball go over the fence," Gonzalez said. "But my focus is to stay healthy, feel good, see the ball well and make sure my mind is in the right spot. All those things are there for me."

Video: CIN@COL: Arenado, CarGo crush homers in the 4th

Innovative broadcast
AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain broadcast the game, with Jenny Cavnar receiving her first play-by-play assignment, alongside former Rockies players Ryan Spilborghs and Cory Sullivan. Regular play-by-play broadcaster Drew Goodman had the day off.

"Today was a lot of fun," Cavnar said. "Our group brings a lot of versatility to a broadcast. We've been wanting to try something where it wasn't necessarily traditional. For Cory and myself, we don't get the chance to get to be in the booth quite often."

The broadcast was different in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

"For me, taking the lead on play-by-play -- a first for me -- was definitely fun, just to get to talk baseball with those guys," Cavnar said. "But the real credit goes to who was in the truck -- Alison Vigil was our producer, Erica Ferrero was directing and Krista Madrill was doing chyron [on-screen graphics]. I look around and I'm starting to see more familiar faces in this business, people that look like me rather than working with all guys all the time.

"It's cool not because they're female. It's cool because they're all really good at their jobs. For the next generation of women that are growing up, I'm often asked how did I get my job, 'I want to be a sideline reporter. I want to be on TV.' But to note, there are so many jobs in baseball -- male or female. It's really neat that we all got the opportunity as females on our staff to do a broadcast together."

Enough already
Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta has been solid offensively this spring -- batting .333 with a 1.443 OPS in 14 games. But it has come with some pain. Reds righty Zack Weiss hit Iannetta with a pitch Friday, the sixth time he's been plunked this spring.

Cuevas optioned
Right-handed-hitting outfielder Noel Cuevas, who batted .364 in 33 Spring Training at-bats, was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Friday. The Rockies still have decisions to make on what looks like two bench positions, with first baseman Ryan McMahon and outfielders David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman still in camp.

Cuevas, 26, plays all three outfield positions and adds to the club's depth. His chances to make the club narrowed when infielder Pat Valaika, last year's main righty pinch-hitter, made a fast recovery from a left oblique injury.

Up next
Gray will make his final spring start on Saturday night, against a Cubs split squad in Mesa. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 MT, and the game can be seen 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