Rockies recall Tinoco, option Hilliard

September 18th, 2020

DENVER -- The Rockies called up righty from the alternate training site to protect a bullpen that has seen too many innings thrown by too few pitchers. They optioned outfielder because his playing time lately has been too limited.

The moves happened Thursday afternoon, before the opener of a four-game set with the Dodgers -- with the Rockies needing to get hot to climb back into the playoff picture.

The first five games of this nine-game final homestand of 2020 -- just two of them Rockies wins -- have hung in the balance late. That means heavy usage of Carlos Estévez, Tyler Kinley, Yency Almonte and Jairo Díaz. Righty Trade Deadline acquisition Mychal Givens had not piched since Friday, when he gave up a homer against the Angels. Closer Daniel Bard had not pitched since Saturday, though he did warm up Tuesday ahead of Antonio Senzatela completing the 3-1 victory over the Angels.

“We've had a couple guys who've been nursing a little bit of a tired arm,” manager Bud Black said. “That's why you haven't seen certain pitchers are here the last few nights.”

Tinoco, 25, has taken quite the circular route to the Rockies’ roster. Optioned at the end of Summer Camp, Tinoco found himself traded to the Marlins -- trying to accumulate players for a roster that had been affected by numerous COVID-19 positive tests -- on Aug. 14 for Minor League relief pitcher Chad Smith. Tinoco made three scoreless appearances for Miami, with three strikeouts and three walks in five innings.

But on Sept. 3, the Rockies claimed Tinoco off the Marlins’ waiver wire, and here he is.

“It comes back to how he’s throwing -- it’s good to have him back,” Black said of Tinoco, who was part of the package the Blue Jays sent to the Rockies in 2015 in exchange for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. “He has a big arm. We made a decision when we had to make some roster moves and get guys on the 40-man roster.

“We know this kid. He’s got some good sink to the fastball. The slider plays when thrown properly.”

Left-handed-hitting rookie Hilliard, 26, started on Opening Day in left field but lost playing time to Raimel Tapia and Garrett Hampson. He has had just eight at-bats (one hit) since Sept. 4, when he homered at Dodger Stadium. David Dahl's return from a back injury pushed him out of playing time. But Black said it’s possible Hilliard could have an impact in the season’s final days.

“We want to get him some at-bats in the alternate site tomorrow morning and Saturday, to get him up to speed,” Black said. “Sam, over the first close to 50 games, showed some good things for us. And he will continue to do that in the future as a potential Rockie player, which we all think he's going to be. There are some growing pains with all young players, but we feel great about Sam's future.”

Black also announced, as expected, that righty Chi Chi González (0-1, 8.68 ERA in four games, two starts) will start Saturday’s third game of the series. González takes the rotation spot of righty Jon Gray, who is out for the season with right shoulder inflammation.

With González not having started since walking four and hitting one in a messy performance at San Diego on Sept. 8, Black said he is hoping for “maybe 70-80 quality performance pitches.”

Rockies step up for Jackie Robinson Foundation
Rockies players are funding a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship for a Colorado student, which covers four years of college tuition, through an online auction of game-used equipment. This is the beginning of an annual initiative. It’s a partnership with the club, since the Colorado Rockies Foundation will ensure that the four-year scholarship is funded in full.

“My teammates and I are very excited to be a part of the great work done by the Jackie Robinson Foundation, it’s an amazing organization,” Rockies catcher Drew Butera said in the press release. “Helping minority youth obtain higher education for a better future is something we all felt strongly about and we wanted to help in any way we could.”

Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort said in the announcement, “Our hope is that, through this scholarship, we can build a lasting relationship with the student selected. We want to keep in touch with them and their family while they’re attending college, provide meaningful guidance and mentor them as they start planning their careers beyond college. And we look forward to doing the same with the students selected each year going forward. The relationships we develop through this program will far outweigh and outlast the four-year financial commitment.”