SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Ty Blach realized a dream by pitching for his hometown Rockies last season. He quickly realized that growing up in Denver and pitching at Regis Jesuit High School couldn’t fully prepare him for doing it at the Major League level.
Going back and forth from mile-high altitude, where pitches act differently from anywhere else, proved challenging for someone doing it for the first time. Bouncing between the Rockies and Triple-A Albuquerque, Blach finished with a 5.90 ERA in 24 games, all but one in relief. Most outings were solid, but five times he gave up four runs.
Rather than curse the city that molded him, Blach used the Major League outings -- plus his 15 games for Triple-A Albuquerque, whose home games are at similar altitude to Coors Field -- as information. At season’s end, Blach met with Rockies manager of baseball research Brittany Haby to study how his pitches were behaving.
To ensure his pitches act better, he took the information to his personal coaches Sean McCourt and former Rays pitcher Deck McGuire at THROWformance in Castle Rock, Colo., where new Rockies righty reliever Pierce Johnson also trained at THROWformance.
Blach, 32, returned to the Rockies under a Minor League contract, but might be changing his status through his work. In seven appearances through Monday, Blach had a 0.93 ERA in 9 2/3 innings. Living low in the strike zone, Blach has given up 10 hits and has struck out eight and walked two.
“It’s always been about executing pitches, knowing I have the ability, no matter the situation,” Blach said. “I made a few tweaks on some things this offseason that have paid some dividends for me.”
The Rockies might end up tweaking their roster plans.
Manager Bud Black figures to have veterans Brad Hand and Brent Suter in the bullpen, but he often keeps three lefties. Blach is in competition with two others with Major League service time -- Fernando Abad and Josh Rogers. On Monday, the Rockies reassigned non-roster vet Logan Allen, who struggled after a bout with a stomach illness, to Minor League camp.
“Ty is a guy that we trust to throw strikes,” Black said. “We trust his ability to pitch his game, and not waver from it.”
Blach showed up at Spring Training with confidence in how his changes to the grip on his fastball would play.
“I’m just trying to create a little bit more sink, a little bit more run, especially because that plays a lot better at Coors Field,” Blach said. “It was something I was able to use during the offseason in Denver, understanding after a year under my belt how altitude affects the ball at home versus on the road.”
Blach’s story has a moral: It’s easy to forget what pitching at altitude is like.
“Pitching my whole professional career in a place other than Colorado, it doesn’t really affect you for one series because you don’t really think about it that much, whereas when you are there for half of your games, you really start to notice the difference because it’s really hard to find consistency,” Blach said. “When I was with the Giants, we would just come in and … ‘Hey, you’ve got to execute pitches.’
“With [the Rockies], we understand that every week we’re going somewhere different, and we’ve got to utilize what our pitches are doing to our advantage.”