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Tweaks to mechanics work for Lyles in latest start

Righty, who's competing for a rotation spot, throws three scoreless innings vs. Crew

PHOENIX -- Spring Training is a process for all players, whether they're a veteran, rookie or someone just trying to make the Opening Day roster.

In a sense, Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles falls into all those categories.

He's been around the Majors for two-plus years after debuting with the Astros in 2011. And although that means he's no rookie, Lyles is new to the Rockies after being acquired in an offseason trade, and he's still a youngster at 23 years old.

Plus, he's in an open competition to become the Rockies' fifth starter, and doing so while also making tweaks to his mechanics.

So Lyles' effort Thursday in his second Cactus League outing was part two of a process he hopes leads to overall improvement and a regular-season roster spot with the Rockies.

"I felt good," Lyles said after holding the Brewers to three hits, one walk and two strikeouts in three scoreless innings. "[I] continued to work on what we've been working on: throwing the ball downhill and really just driving it downhill, getting the guys to hit the top of the baseball and putting it on the ground and letting the infielders do what they do. ...

"For the most part, we did a good job of that."

The day's low point, in Lyles' eyes, was a two-out walk in the third to Rickie Weeks.

Otherwise, he was pleased with his mechanics, which the Rockies have tinkered with this spring. The biggest adjustment for Lyles is landing more solidly on his left leg so his body provides more stability as he drives down -- thus getting his pitches lower in the strike zone.

So far, Rockies manager Walt Weiss sees the results.

"I saw some [downward] angle from Jordan," Weiss said. "I saw him focusing on keeping the ball down. I thought it was a very encouraging outing by him today."

How Lyles continues to adapt to those changes will determine where he begins the 2014 season. The Rockies could opt to have him continue to hone his mechanics in the Minor Leagues, which, given his youth, could be helpful in multiple ways. Despite having 65 Major League starts (and seven relief appearances) under his belt, Lyles also could benefit from additional seasoning, as his career numbers -- 5.35 ERA, 1.454 WHIP and 2.8 walks per nine innings -- might suggest.

Or, with ace Jhoulys Chacin recovering from a right shoulder strain and the fifth spot in the rotation still up for grabs, Lyles could master the mechanical changes and get the chance to immediately contribute.

But despite the overall approval of Thursday's performance, the righty knows there's still work left to be done.

"If I don't get better, then I probably won't make this team," Lyles said. "So I need to work on it."

He'll certainly get the chance. Spring, after all, is a process.

Cash Kruth is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth.
Read More: Colorado Rockies, Jordan Lyles