While awaiting diagnosis on Kyle Freeland’s left shoulder injury, Rockies manager Bud Black said Chi Chi González, Dereck Rodríguez and No. 2 prospect Ryan Rolison are in play for a season-opening rotation spot.
“We haven’t made a decision on any of those fellows yet and what their role would be -- we have another eight or nine days to make that decision,” Black said.
Freeland sustained the injury on Tuesday against the Athletics. Imaging was scheduled for mid-morning Wednesday, with little to no hope that the injury won’t cost him time.
González, who pitched for the Rockies in 2019 and 2020, has had the most consistent spring of the three. In addition to his B-game work on Tuesday, he is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in four Cactus League outings, covering 9 2/3 innings. But Black said no decision has been made.
González and Rolison were on the same pitching schedule as Freeland -- both had three scoreless innings in a B-game against the D-backs on Tuesday. That means one of them -- with González’s experience possibly being the decider over Rolison, the top Draft pick in 2018 -- would fit in the rotation for the regular season’s second game on April 2 against the Dodgers at Coors Field.
But González and Rodríguez especially had turned their attention toward long relief and were pitching reduced innings. Rolison is in the long relief mix, but his future value is as a Major League starter.
“Chi Chi’s pitch count has been elevated through this spring,” Black said. “Yesterday we backed him off a bit thinking our five starters were looking pretty good. Then the unfortunate arm injury to Kyle necessitates Chi Chi being built back up. He and Derek Rodríguez and Rolison are capable of throwing 75 pitches the next time out based on what they’ve been doing this spring.
“Their pitch count has been built to a certain level. We’ll probably press that more the next time they take the mound.”
By replacing Freeland and beginning the season with five starters, the four for the season-opening series against the Dodgers -- right-hander Germán Márquez on April 1, followed by González, Jon Gray and Austin Gomber -- would have an extra day’s rest after their first starts.
Right-hander Antonio Senzatela, in solid standing after a hamstring injury early in camp, would get his extra day between his last Spring Training outing and his first start, April 6 at home against the D-backs.
Another option would be to begin the regular season with four starters and not add a fifth until April 10 at San Francisco. The question there would be Senzatela, who after recovering threw 45 pitches in a B-game on March 16 and 59 (41 strikes) against the Royals on Sunday, and whether his schedule can be manipulated so he can pitch on April 4.