Feltner's rookie season ends with big win vs. LA
Right-hander plans to spend offseason doing all he can to secure a 2023 rotation spot
LOS ANGELES – Before each of his innings, Rockies right-hander Ryan Feltner swivels his hips, once to each side. Then there are crossways soccer kicks, left then right. He takes his glove in his right hand and does a stretch over his shoulder before pantomiming a throw. Only then does he stride to the mound.
This could develop into a line dance if Feltner goes from rookie rotation member to something special. But Feltner, deep into analytics and science, finds the wiggles purposeful after sitting in the dugout. He also ices his fingers, a hand or his cheeks for performance-aiding blood flow.
Feltner and the Rockies use information and innovation to feed his hunger for winning. Feltner feasted for six innings, during which he limited a formidable lineup to four hits and escaped a major jam, as the Rockies took their third straight game over the 110-win Dodgers, 5-2, on Tuesday night.
In his 19th start in 20 Major League appearances, with trips to Triple-A Albuquerque in between, Feltner, 26, spent his rookie year harnessing his delivery, learning a new sinker and figuring out how to manipulate his slider. Rockies manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darryl Scott didn’t mind treating Feltner as a student in the Majors on the days between starts, because that student gives way to a fiery competitor.
“That guy’s in there,” Feltner said. “I used to show that a little bit. I still feel that way inside. But as a starting pitcher -- and I’ve had this talk with Buddy -- you can’t be too emotional, or at least show it.
“I definitely feel very aggressive, but I don’t want to waste energy on that.”
The competitor made sure he wasn’t schooled by Mookie Betts when it mattered.
Homers by Brendan Rodgers and Sean Bouchard gave Feltner a 2-0 lead, but that diminished by half at the start of the third inning, which started with a Gavin Lux double, a wild pitch, a run scored and a walk. Up came Betts with two on and no outs. With the count full, Feltner fired a sweeping slider that Betts chased. Four pitches later, Justin Turner and Freddie Freeman were retired on line drives.
“That was really good for Ryan to finish on this note, in this ballpark, against this team,” Black said. “He had a little bit of a struggle there in the third. We’ve seen a bigger number put on the scoreboard in those type of 30-pitch innings, and he’s had a few of those this season, where the big pitch-count inning got him.”
Beyond that, Feltner made one mistake -- Joey Gallo’s solo homer on a two-out, first-pitch fastball in the fifth. But Randal Grichuk's two-run homer in the seventh helped Feltner clamp down a win that left his 2022 ledger at 4-9 with a 5.83 ERA.
Scott, the Rockies’ Minor League pitching coordinator when Feltner was selected out of Ohio State in the fourth round of the 2018 MLB Draft, has believed all along Feltner could learn on the run in the Majors.
“It hasn’t always been pretty, but numbers don’t indicate what he’s done,” Scott said. “He’s grown a lot. He’s starting to see some of the things that he needs to do going into the offseason. Part of that overthinking is good, because he’s processing information.”
Feltner is an intriguing 2023 rotation competitor.
With Antonio Senzatela expected to be out until early May because of knee surgery, the Rockies head into the offseason sure of two rotation spots -- veterans Kyle Freeland and Germán Márquez. Lefty Austin Gomber, who lost his rotation spot this year, but will start Wednesday’s season finale against the Dodgers, will fight for a role. The search will be on for veteran complements. The team hopes to re-sign current rotation member José Ureña and will have to make a decision whether to pursue Chad Kuhl. And trades and free agent signings are always possible.
It’ll be time for Feltner to step up and claim a spot.
“That’s my goal,” Feltner said. “I try not to do too much concerning myself on that sort of thing. But I’m going to do what I can do in the offseason to set me up for that position.”