Freeland shines on international stage at Classic

March 23rd, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Bud Black relished the idea that left-handed pitcher will use his experience at the World Baseball Classic as fuel for his 2023 season -- and a way to inspire teammates.

Freeland threw 41 pitches over three innings in Team USA's dramatic 3-2 loss to Japan on Wednesday. He allowed one run on one hit -- Kazuma Okamoto’s fourth-inning solo shot. In two WBC appearances, Freeland struck out five batters in six innings and allowed two runs on three hits.

“He wants that feeling to be shared by others, which is part of what I want, too, for not only our team, but for our fans,” Black said of Freeland, who started the 2018 National League Wild Card Game -- a 2-1, 13-inning victory over the Cubs. “They’ve been [to the postseason] a number of times in the history of the Rockies. It’s a short history, but that’s what we strive for.”

Black said the Rockies are “looking at Sunday” against the White Sox for Freeland to throw about 60 pitches prior to Opening Day.

Making his mark
Infielder ’s defense at shortstop was one of the keys to Mexico making the WBC semifinals before losing to eventual champion Japan. An infield utility with the Rockies the last two seasons, Trejo jumped at the chance to display his talent at his favorite position.

“Every pitch felt like it was Game 7 of the World Series,” said Trejo, who turns 27 on May 30. “Not that I’ve been in that position before, but the atmosphere, the importance of every single pitch and the importance of defense at that level was so critical. I take pride in my defense, and I was able to show it on a world stage.”

If and are healthy by Opening Day, and barring injuries to other everyday players, a roster spot may come down to ’s bat (which became more productive over the course of the spring) or Trejo’s glove.

Trejo went just 3-for-20 during the WBC but has flashed some offensive production with the Rockies. Black paid attention to Trejo’s WBC play.

“We’ve always felt good about Alan’s ability to play defense at that premium position, and we also feel good about his ability to play second base and third base,” Black said. “Even though he hasn’t hit like he has wanted to, we think there is some upside with the bat.”

The kid’s all right
The Rockies plan to use top prospect Ezequiel Tovar as the everyday shortstop. During Wednesday’s 10-9 loss to the Angels, Tovar made an impressive snag to beat David Fletcher at first in the top of the fifth and hit a two-run homer off Reid Detmers in the bottom of the frame.

Video game numbers
Right-handed prospect Jaden Hill (No. 9 Rockies prospect per MLB Pipeline) gave up one run in two relief innings against the Padres on Tuesday night. His one strikeout was of star third baseman Manny Machado on a changeup that elicited a wild swing on a 2-2 pitch.

Hill, 23, knew a little something about Machado -- from the controls of the video game MLB The Show.

“He’s on my Diamond Dynasty team, so that was cool,” Hill said.

Good decisions made easy
Lefty starter  has four pitches and believes the key to success is knowing when to use which. 

Gomber, who had strong stretches in 2021 (9-9, 4.53 ERA) but struggled and lost his rotation spot last season (5-7, 5.56), said decisions are easier with the new PitchCom, which lets the pitcher communicate with the catcher. The system debuted last year with one-way, catcher-to-pitcher communication. 

“It definitely makes it easier and quicker,” said Gomber, who threw six scoreless innings against the D-backs in a Minor League game on Tuesday. “I like having the ability to go straight to what I want to throw. Sometimes, if there is a foul ball, I push the button even before the catcher does.”