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Lawrence thriving since working with Reed

Rockies pitching prospect learns from former sidearmer, set to pitch in AFL Fall Stars Game @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- The Rockies reached into their past to help righty relief pitcher Justin Lawrence possibly become a key part of their future.

12th-rounder Lawrence embraces change

DENVER -- The Rockies reached into their past to help righty relief pitcher Justin Lawrence possibly become a key part of their future.

12th-rounder Lawrence embraces change

Lawrence was the Rockies' 12th-round Draft pick in 2015 and has an interesting backstory: He struggled at Jacksonville University, then transferred to Daytona State (junior college) and became a low sidearm pitcher while attracting scouting interest. His pro career started slowly, but in the last two seasons, Lawrence, the Rockies' No. 17 prospect, has posted ERAs of 1.65 in 2017 and 2.65 in '18 at two Class A levels.

In Arizona Fall League play, Lawrence -- who needs to be added to the Rockies' 40-man roster, and should be a prime Rule 5 Draft candidate if he isn't -- has a 3.52 ERA in seven appearances, and he has been chosen to represent the Rockies for Saturday night's AFL Fall Stars Game.

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To help Lawrence, who turns 24 on Nov. 25, the Rockies enlisted former Major League sidearm reliever Steve Reed to work with him at the start of his career. Lawrence's fastball has improved to 96-99 mph consistently, and he hit 100 mph twice during this past season at Class A Advanced Lancaster and six times in AFL play, which makes him difficult for right-handed hitters. He also is competitive against left-handers because he has maintained the solid changeup that was part of the package when he made strides in college.

"A lot of that was delivery work, and work over the rubber -- Steve really helped him take the next step," Rockies senior player development director Zach Wilson said. "Steve, being a sidearmer himself, he's got expertise in that area. Even the best pitching coaches, teaching a sidearm guy is difficult. The fact we were able to get Steve on board really helped Justin take it to the next level."

Lawrence researched Reed, who spent seven years over two stints with the Rockies and pitched for six other teams, and found it encouraging that the organization saw enough to have Reed tutor him. Reed taught Lawrence to monitor his stride, keep his body closed and make sure his momentum stays toward the plate rather than fall to the side.

"From an organizational standpoint, it really showed a commitment from the Rockies in my development," Lawrence said. "They didn't have to do that for me. They went out of their way to fly a guy out to work with me for two or three days. It really pushed me to continue on, because I believe in myself and they believe in me the same way. It goes hand in hand.

"It's getting to the point where everything is starting to click and make sense. I feel a bit more in control with everything I'm doing."

The Fall Stars Game is a chance for Lawrence to show his rapid development.

"The level of talent here is the best by far I have ever seen, so to represent my entire organization in this game is an absolute honor," he said.

Exhibition in Albuquerque
The Rockies will play an exhibition game in Albuquerque, N.M., against the Triple-A Isotopes on March 25, 2019, the parent club and the affiliate announced Thursday during a news conference in Albuquerque. It will be the Rockies' first exhibition game at Isotopes Park since they became affiliated with the club in 2015, and their first appearance in Albuquerque since '10, when they met the Mariners.

It'll be one of two games the Rockies will play after breaking camp in Scottsdale, Ariz. They'll meet the Twins at CenturyLink Sports Complex on March 26 -- two days before the Rockies open the regular season at Miami.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

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