Gomber clicking on all cylinders early

Left-handed tossed pair of scoreless frames Friday, K'ing two

March 6th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-hander Austin Gomber displayed the information hidden between the lines and beneath the numbers.

Reacting to the feel that he had for his off-speed pitches, Gomber held the Brewers scoreless on one hit with two strikeouts in two innings of Friday's 12-3 loss at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

In his first start -- two scoreless innings against the D-backs last Sunday -- Gomber pumped fastballs in good locations. This time, he faced an opponent familiar to him -- a National League Central rival of his former club, the Cardinals. That meant using all that he had.

“I thought my fastball was really good last week with command,” Gomber said. “Today it was more of an emphasis on the breaking balls. And I thought I threw some really good ones. So next time, I'll try to put both of those together, and just continue to build up the arm strength and the pitch count.”

Gomber, 27, represents a different type of starting pitching acquisition than the Rockies have made under general manager Jeff Bridich in recent years. Traditionally, they’ve brought in highly-touted, if unfinished products -- current rotation leader Germán Márquez, Chi Chi González and Jeff Hoffman (now with the Reds) come to mind. Coaches have concentrated on completing their development.

Gomber, who showed solid stretches with the Cardinals in 2018 and 2020 (he had biceps tendinitis and did not appear in the Majors in ’19), arrived in the Nolan Arenado deal with experience and polish. The process with Gomber has involved him and the staff -- manager Bud Black (a former lefty pitcher), pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darryl Scott -- becoming acquainted, rather than the coaches suggesting changes to speed up development.

Black has been encouraged by Gomber’s aggressiveness in the strike zone and overall approach.

“This guy has pitched in the big leagues, albeit not a ton of innings, but he's got confidence and he's got stuff,” Black said. “There's a composure to him. We’re going to get him back out there again in five days. I'm really looking forward to that.”

An intriguing sequence came against Brewers outfielder Billy McKinney, who took a left-on-left plate appearance to 10 pitches in the second inning until Gomber forced a grounder to third. The last pitch was just the second fastball of the at-bat.

It’s early for the late-game relievers

Mychal Givens and Carlos Estévez are expected to be key righty relievers, given Givens’ success in such a role with the Orioles before arriving in a trade last season and Estévez’s quality when healthy. The hope is there won’t be many days like Friday for either.

Both gave up three-run homers -- Givens to Derek Fisher, Estévez to Zach Green. Estévez’s inning ended with two outs and five runs in, with the homer being his last pitch.

A taste of the old

Black’s lineup had Josh Fuentes, who finished last season at first base, playing third -- his Minor League position. It also had Ryan McMahon, who is set to move from second to third, going back to second base. Black warned not to read much into it, beside keeping them sharp just in case of injury or an in-game switch that would have sent them to their old spots.

Breaking news

The Rockies have spoken often about their team speed, which they plan to use since their power is unproven. Projected second baseman Brendan Rodgers, who had Friday off after homering Thursday, isn’t shy about how he wants to contribute to the running game.

“My goal is 20 bags,” Rodgers said. “You heard it here first.”

Improved approach

Rookie catcher Dom Nuñez, who tripled during Wednesday’s 10-7 victory over the Athletics, lashed a hard single on a Jordan Zimmermann sinker past the second baseman’s glove Friday.

“He has a good idea what he’s doing at the plate,” Black said. “There’s some power in there and his pitch recognition is pretty good. It’s good to see that him and Elias Díaz are going to be able to add some offense.”

Up next

The plan is for non-roster right-hander Dereck Rodríguez -- whose chances at a rotation spot could be enhanced if Antonio Senzatela’s right hamstring injury delays the start to his season -- to throw three innings (longest by a Rockies pitcher so far this spring) Saturday against the Angels in Tempe, Ariz. Fans can watch the game live on MLB.TV at 1:10 p.m. MT.