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Estévez looking to pick up where he left off

@harding_at_mlb
July 6, 2020

DENVER -- Rockies right-handed reliever Carlos Estévez’s easy smile and quiet nature are serving him well during a period when things ended just as he was going well. Last season, Estévez led the Rockies in appearances with 71 and was at his best toward the end, with career-high streaks for

DENVER -- Rockies right-handed reliever Carlos Estévez’s easy smile and quiet nature are serving him well during a period when things ended just as he was going well.

Last season, Estévez led the Rockies in appearances with 71 and was at his best toward the end, with career-high streaks for scoreless innings (9 2/3) and outings (10) from Sept. 1-21.

This Spring Training started, well, as springs do, with five earned runs and six hits in two innings in February. But he breezed through March -- three scoreless outings, six strikeouts against one hit and no walks -- before the shutdown.

“Honestly, at the point where everything shut down, I was feeling ready to start the season, and that’s an unfortunate thing,” said Estévez, whose 3.75 ERA last season was second-lowest on the team to Scott Oberg’s 2.25. “But it’s the same for everyone. It’s shut down for everyone, not only for me. I cannot be thinking about it that way. I think about picking up things and getting ready again.”

Estévez, 27, has high aspirations for the day factors beyond his control don’t keep him off the mound. So do the Rockies.

Closer Wade Davis’ injury-affected struggles and the inconsistencies of veterans Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee allowed a new crew to take over the late innings.

Oberg built on a solid 2018 with a better '19 and took over as closer from Davis. Estévez bounced back from a left oblique strain and a right elbow strain that kept him out of the Majors in '18. Jairo Díaz made a career-high 56 appearances and converted five of six save chances after Oberg underwent surgery for blood clots in his right shoulder.

Oberg gets reassurances about playing

Lefty James Pazos, who had pitched previously with the Yankees and Mariners, had a 1.74 ERA with the Rockies in 12 outings last year, and newcomers such as Tyler Kinley, who displayed an effective slider with the Marlins, brighten a bullpen in a year when relievers could be at a premium.

“Estévez has come on,” pitching coach Steve Foster said. “Díaz has come on. Scott Oberg has taken a big leap forward in leadership, and his ability to pitch big innings. Other guys have certainly filled some roles.”

Estévez, Díaz look to boost Rox 'pen in 2020

Short hops

• Manager Bud Black said he is happy with how players are holding one another accountable for adhering to protocols. “We’re observing each other, and that’s the thing that’s been so good about the last couple of days, I’ve heard guys say, ‘Hey, get your mask on,’” Black said. He said they don’t have a system of rewards or fines based on infection control behavior.

• Lefty Kyle Freeland has been motivated to rebound from a down 2019, and infielder Ryan McMahon -- who faced him in live batting practice Monday -- believes his pitch action backs his attitude. “I definitely didn’t feel comfortable against Kyle Freeland, that’s for sure. He’s throwing a good, hard changeup that’s moving like a two-seam and he’s not afraid to throw it to lefties.”

• Black discussed the golden chance for Raimel Tapia, who hit .275 last season and has a shot at stepping into left field in the absence of Ian Desmond, who chose not to play in 2020. “He’s had enough time in and around the big leagues to know what this big league competition is all about and how he needs to play his game to be a contributor, and he’s ready for that,” Black said.

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