DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Tommy Doyle’s 2020 promotion to the Majors was unexpected, thus his results -- six runs, six hits, four walks in 2 1/3 innings over three games -- were understandable. But nothing has hurt the club’s belief that Doyle has the tools to succeed when his time arrives.
Doyle, 24, drafted 70th overall out of the University of Virginia in 2017, pitched at Class A Advanced Lancaster in 2019 and earned an invitation to last year's Major League Spring Training. The pandemic wiped out the Minor League season, costing him a chance to hone his fastball command and mix in a slider.
Nonetheless, he performed well enough at the alternate training site to earn his Major League debut on Sept. 23, when he yielded four hits and two runs in the eighth inning of a 7-2 loss at San Francisco.
“The feelings, I’ve never really felt before,” Doyle said during the MLB Rookie Program last week. “It was adrenaline but nerves at the same time. There were no fans. That probably would be the craziest and oddest, just in terms of how I felt and the surrealness of it.”
Doyle bounced back to pitch a scoreless inning against the D-backs on Sept. 25, before yielding four runs on one hit and three walks on Sept. 27. No one wants to spend a winter, even one this strange, staring at a 23.14 career ERA.
But so much about Doyle’s athletic ability -- he is listed at 6-6 and 244 pounds, and throws his four-seamer 95 mph and his two-seamer 94 mph -- and background suggests he’ll increase his Major League sample and reduce the ERA. MLB Pipeline rated him as the 18th-best prospect in Colorado's farm system in 2020.
Jordan Czarniecki, a Rockies area scouting supervisor, pegged Doyle as a potential second-round Draft pick out of Flint Hill High School in Oakton, Va. But that’s not how the Doyle family rolls.
“He was a very intelligent kid and we knew school was important to him, and his family made it clear that school was important to him, so I don’t think he had any true want to sign out of high school,” Czarniecki said.
Doyle’s father, George, turned down opportunities for college football to attend Virginia Tech. His mother, Laura, played field hockey and lacrosse at Lafayette. His brother, Matt, played baseball at Harvard, and sisters Claire and Katherine (Tommy’s twin) both played lacrosse at Bucknell.
“I never really thought about going pro until my sophomore or junior year, when scouts started showing up,” Doyle said. “That’s when it hit me that I could potentially, but for me and my family it was school and then athletics. That’s what’s going to get you through life.”
Doyle saw spot relief appearances as a freshman on the 2015 Virginia team that won the NCAA championship, and he earned 17 saves over three seasons.
In 110 Minor League games from 2017-19, Doyle posted a 3.12 ERA in 115 1/3 innings, with 132 strikeouts against 35 walks. He also caught manager Bud Black’s attention last spring, with a 2.25 ERA and three strikeouts over four Cactus League innings. Doyle would have been ticketed for the 40-man Major League roster this offseason -- after gaining another year of Minor League experience -- under normal circumstances.
Then 2020 happened. Doyle’s performance at the alternate training site -- and the Rockies’ needs as the bullpen, and season, fell apart -- opened the door.
“In Spring Training down in Scottsdale, he showed really well,” Black said the day the Rockies summoned Doyle to the Majors. “For a first time in the big league camp, you saw a guy with poise and stuff. The way he carried himself was something I felt good about, as did the other coaches.”
It was heady stuff, even for a guy as grounded as Doyle. But as a guy who loves learning, he took big league lessons to heart.
“Getting to know those guys in the ‘pen was big,” Doyle said. “Coming from High A to the bigs is a big jump. But the bullpen welcomed me with open arms. That calmed my nerves a little bit.
“For me, it’s the same game that it is in the Minors. It’s just on a bigger stage. The mental side got me going a little bit -- everything was kind of rushed and I was trying to do everything perfectly instead of sticking to what I did to get there.”