Rockies right-hander Ashton Goudeau would beg to differ with anyone who called Sunday afternoon’s 11-3 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field meaningless.
Goudeau’s 3 2/3 innings -- in relief of starter Kyle Freeland, who left early after allowing six runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings -- were not his first. But they were his most in a game, and the best in his first four Major League appearances.
Goudeau, who spent the past eight years in the Minors before seeing big league time this year, allowed a run on four hits. He even got into a little dust-up -- hitting his first batter, D-backs catcher Carson Kelly, with a pitch in the third, then watching D-backs veteran Madison Bumgarner plunk Rockies catcher Tony Wolters in the fifth.
“That's the best we've seen [Goudeau] in a big league game,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We saw three solid pitches -- fastball, 93-94 [mph], really good changeup. For me, I think his best stuff is the fastball-change. He's got that big, looping 12-6 curveball, but the variance in velocity can disrupt some timing.”
Goudeau, 28, was drafted by the Royals in 2012 out of Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City. His long trip, which included time in the Minors with the Royals and Mariners organizations, included just 20 appearances at the Triple-A level. The big break, actually, came after he became a Minor League free agent, signed with the Rockies last season and posted a 2.07 ERA in 16 starts at Double-A Hartford. Coaches showed him his stuff was good enough, if he eliminated a slider that was not as effective as his other pitches, and taught him how to best sequence his pitches.
Maybe his investment of effort, with little financial return, could pay off in a big league future.
“Just paycheck to paycheck, to be honest with you,” Goudeau said during the summer, when asked how he could afford his quest -- with not much of a bonus from being drafted in the 27th round, low pay during seasons and no baseball-related pay during the offseasons.
“I ended up giving baseball lessons, working with kids, just to get through the offseason and make it to the next Spring Training,” he said. “I got a little help from my parents. They’re awesome. But it was just little offseason jobs here and there.”
Goudeau said some of the youngsters he taught are just reaching the collegiate level. Now Goudeau’s students can watch him push for his own future.
The Rockies will go into 2021 confident in their top three -- righties Germán Márquez, Antonio Senzatela and Freeland, whose struggles Sunday lifted his final ERA to 4.33 but did not wipe out his bounceback from a bad '19. They’re counting on righty Jon Gray, their erstwhile No. 1 starter, to bounce back from a right shoulder injury that limited his effectiveness and forced him out of action at the start of September.
And with the onus on general manager Jeff Bridich to make solid decisions to improve Colorado's daily lineup, offensive depth and bullpen, it doesn’t look as though accumulating proven starters will be a priority. That means Goudeau has pitched himself into, if not a competition for the fifth spot next year, part of the rotation’s depth.
The competitors are the typical reclamations, prospects and hard-work stories that populate the back of Major League teams’ rotations.
In addition to Goudeau, the Rockies have:
• RHP Ryan Castellani: A second-round Draft pick out of high school in 2014, Castellani showed top-level Major League stuff, but his lack of experience showed in his high walks (26 in 43 1/3 innings) this season, especially against experienced lineups.
• RHP Chi Chi González: A 2013 first-round Draft pick of the Rangers whose career was interrupted by Tommy John surgery, won a rotation job. But a right shoulder injury cost him time this year, and consistency suffered (0-2, 6.86 in six games, four starts).
• RHP Antonio Santos: After pitching at Class A Lancaster and Double-A Hartford last season, Santos found himself part of the group that yo-yoed between the alternate training site and the Majors. In his only start, he allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning on Friday.
• LHP Ryan Rolison: The Rockies’ No. 1 Draft pick out of Ole Miss in 2018, Rolison showed advanced location and change of speed in Spring Training and Summer Camp. Rather than test him in the Majors in September, the club decided to send him to October's instructional camp, where he will pitch regularly.
Also, righty Peter Lambert will not be an immediate factor after undergoing Tommy John surgery in July.
And Goudeau is showing that going through lean years was worthwhile.
“Those years I was struggling, I just always felt like I was taking small steps in the right direction, but there was always that one thing that was going wrong,” Goudeau said. "That was kind pushing me, like, ‘OK, if I can just get past this, then I'm gonna get there.’ Then something else will pop up where I would have to learn how to get over the next thing.”