Rockies show support for Freeland after tough outing

April 3rd, 2024

CHICAGO -- Rockies starter was sitting at his locker Tuesday night, staring forward with a towel draped over his head, when teammate Tyler Kinley approached.

The Rockies had just suffered a 12-2 loss to the Cubs, and Freeland -- following a rough Opening Day start against the D-backs -- struggled once again and appeared to be taking it hard.

Kinley wanted to show Freeland -- his teammate of five seasons -- that he wasn’t alone. The 33-year-old reliever bent over and wrapped Freeland in an embrace that lasted close to 10 seconds.

“[I was] just showing him that his teammates got his back and we're supporting him,” Kinley said. “Kyle worked his butt off this offseason. He had such a great Spring Training, such a dominant Spring Training [19 IP, 2.37 ERA]. These first two starts probably couldn't go any worse for him, in terms of results.

“But he's a competitor. He's a fierce leader, and he's one guys that's going to help turn this team -- this organization -- around into a potential playoff team down the road. Him being able to overcome these first two starts is going to do a lot for the younger guys on this team, to see how he just continues to throw punches and bounce back.”

After allowing 10 runs and 10 hits in 2 1/3 innings in the Rockies’ opener, he allowed seven runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings Tuesday, including a two-run homer by Seiya Suzuki in the first after Nico Hoerner’s leadoff walk.

The 17 earned runs is tied for the fourth-most allowed through a pitcher's first two outings of a season since earned runs became an official stat in 1913.

“I think more than anything, I just wanted to let him know he's not alone in this,” Kinley said.

That’s a valuable message for the entire Rockies clubhouse right now. They’re off to a rough start, opening the season 1-5 for only the third time in franchise history (2005, 2008). They’ve struggled across the board.

Colorado’s pitching staff entered the day 28th in ERA (7.40), and the rotation ranked 29th (8.87). The offense ranked 27th in OPS (.565) and last in baseball in wRC+ (40), albeit after facing a tough D-backs rotation to open the season and then playing in cold, rainy and windy Chicago conditions.

They’ve made mistakes in the field, such as Nolan Jones’ error in Monday’s loss and Brenton Doyle -- perhaps forcing the issue Tuesday -- coming up well short diving for a Nick Madrigal single that consequently became a double.

“We're not swinging the bats, and we're not pitching. So, it's a bad combination,” manager Bud Black said. “You never know coming out of Spring Training what's going to happen, right? We had a good spring. We were swinging the bats, we were in a good frame of mind. But everything changes when the season starts."

As much as that has been true for Freeland, it's only two starts that are perhaps magnified due to happening right out of the gate. He’s made 60 starts over the past two seasons and the Rockies once again are expecting him to be a dependable arm.

“The stuff is fine,” Black said. “... A lot of pitches sort of middle-ish, and they took advantage of them. Some bad counts too. The first-inning walk to Hoerner to start the game, and then the 2-0 count to Suzuki. The fastball was right there, and he didn't miss it. If you look back and you see where some of the fastballs were supposed to be located weren’t, and they're taking advantage of it, right. Kyle's not getting any breaks. They're not popping the ball up, they're not mis-hitting, and that happens sometimes."

“When you struggle, you feel like you're on an island,” Kinley said. “You feel like you're the only one that's struggling. And I think at the end of the day, this is a very tough game and it’s the highest level. We’ve played some good teams right off the bat, so I think it's just important for guys to know that we're together. We're not divided. We're not pointing fingers. We're not doing any sort of blame game. And I think unity is a big part in the turnaround that we can have.”