Notes: Hampson looks to shake off 2020

March 12th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies’ started 2020 quickly, with a .326 batting average and .388 on-base percentage through 14 games. But the 60-game sprint sped up on Hampson and left him gasping.

Hampson finished at .234, with an uncharacteristic 60 strikeouts in 184 plate appearances. However, a normal-paced schedule and a more settled role should help in 2021.

“It was difficult on a lot of hitters, going through bad stretches,” Hampson said. “In the back of your mind, you know you don't have the whole season to get back up to where you want to be. So it was tough.

“But that’s what happens in baseball. You're going to go through ups and downs. You've just got to stay focused on winning and helping the team win. I don't really want to worry about where my numbers are at that particular moment.”

A more certain role could be the key to eliminating worry.

The Rockies’ plan of leading off with David Dahl (now with the Rangers) fizzled when Dahl struggled early before going to the injured list with a shoulder injury. With Raimel Tapia also scuffling, Hampson grabbed the leadoff spot. It worked for a while. But when the hits weren’t coming, Hampson tried to force it.

“Philosophically, some guys started chasing hits,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He expanded the zone a little bit too much on breaking pitches, and that's not Garrett. That’s something that he's been committed to working on.”

Hampson’s chase rate, or swings outside the strike zone, on breaking pitches jumped from 21.9 percent in 2019 to 28.0 percent. Hampson has addressed the issue before. He had a 30.3 percent chase rate in 2018, his first extended Major League action.

An infielder when chosen in the third round out of Long Beach State in 2016, Hampson’s speed and range allowed him to adapt to outfield play.

The Rockies have been using Hampson regularly in center field this spring. Black has been using Hampson high and low in lineups, but with Tapia coming off a solid year it is unlikely Hampson will lead off many games when the season begins. He batted ninth in Friday afternoon’s 9-8 loss to the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium.

This spring, Hampson has looked more controlled and assured in the box. Being treated as a lineup regular for the first time in his career has helped.

“I'm in a good spot now where I can consistently stay the same as far as my approach, and the way I want to move at the plate,” Hampson said.

Story power

Rockies shortstop smoked a pitch from the Giants’ Sam Long over the left-field wall for a fourth-inning homer. It was Story’s third hit in 11 spring at-bats. All were home runs.

“It always feels good to scrap a ball like that,” Story said. “It’s a good sign that I’m moving the right way and I’m kind of in rhythm. It’s still not consistent as I would like it to be yet, but it’s still early.”

Also, catcher launched a three-run homer, a day after rookie Dom Nuñez’s homer against the Cubs. Last regular season, the Rockies had just two homers (both from Díaz) from their catchers.

Optimism grows

Right-hander , who has not pitched in the Cactus League because of a slight right hamstring injury, faced hitters at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in a two-inning simulated game on Friday. Black said he originally feared the injury could cost Senzatela several weeks, but now believes he can be ready for the season-opening rotation.

Márquez never truly warms to the task

Folks in Denver expecting a snowstorm understandably have sympathy, but a damp, upper-50s day was not righty ’s idea for a spring day. Still, it didn’t make him feel better about his performance -- three innings, six hits, three walks and four runs (three earned) in three-plus innings. The plan was for four innings.

“I don’t mind the weather because the beginning of the season is going to be cold in Denver,” Márquez said. “I didn’t feel really loose. Whether it was the weather, I don’t know. I have to make an adjustment. It didn’t work out.”

Márquez, the likely Opening Day starter, struggled with fastball location, and an issue in his previous start -- not being sharp from the stretch -- also persisted.

Up next

Lefty Kyle Freeland will face the Mariners on Saturday, for his second spring start. Seattle will start lefty Marco Gonzales, whose father, Frank Gonzales, is the Rockies’ Double-A Hartford pitching coach.