Freeland motivated to earn spot in rotation

Freeland motivated to earn spot in rotation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Kyle Freeland understood the logic in the Rockies not calling him up from Triple-A Albuquerque at the end of last season. But he saw nothing wrong with using it as motivation to try to claim one of two open spots in the 2017 rotation.

Freeland, a Denver native and the eighth overall pick in the 2014 Draft by Colorado, turned in his third straight strong performance Wednesday with four scoreless innings in the Rockies' 5-4 victory over the Brewers at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Freeland on nerves, command

Last season, Freeland, the club's No. 6 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, went a combined 11-10 with a 3.89 ERA at Double-A Hartford and Albuquerque. He threw 162 innings, which was a dramatic rise compared to the 46 2/3 innings he logged in 2015 because of left shoulder fatigue and scar tissue in the elbow.

"I didn't use it in a bad way at all, but definitely at the end of the season there was a fire lit in my stomach, and I held that fire throughout the offseason," said Freeland, 23, a former standout at Denver's Thomas Jefferson High School and the University of Evansville. "Right now, I'm kind of unleashing it."

Top Prospects: Freeland, COL

In his previous two outings, Freeland faced the minimum number of batters. This time, Freeland showed he can navigate.

Keon Broxton singled and Scooter Gennett doubled to open the game. Not possessing pinpoint fastball command, Freeland went to the changeup to settle himself during a strikeout of Domingo Santana. He then struck out Jesus Aguilar looking before forcing a Kirk Nieuwenhuis groundout.

Freeland finished his outing in the fourth by working Jett Bandy into a double-play grounder.

In his first Cactus League appearance on Feb. 28 against the Dodgers, an overly-excited Freeland gave up four runs (three earned) in two innings. Since then, Freeland said he has calmed himself by concentrating on fundamentals.

"He showed today what he's shown the last two outings -- which he didn't show the first one -- which was composure, good rhythm to his delivery," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Every pitch he threw was with intent and focus. That's what I was impressed with -- he pitched and didn't throw."

Worth noting

• Right-hander German Marquez, also looking for a rotation spot, gave up three runs in his first inning of work, but nothing else over the next 2 1/3 frames -- not even a hit.

• Righty relief prospect Rayan Gonzalez left with pain in his right elbow after throwing a pitch with two outs in the eighth. Gonzalez is on the 40-man roster for the first time.

"Hopefully this is nothing serious, but I'm concerned about this one," Black said.

Gonzalez joins right-hander starter Chad Bettis (cancer treatment), lefty Chris Rusin (oblique), righty reliever Chad Qualls (forearm soreness), righty reliever Jairo Diaz (return from elbow surgery), first baseman Ian Desmond (broken left hand), catcher Tom Murphy (hairline fracture of right forearm) and outfielder David Dahl (stress reaction in rib) as injured roster members. The most hopeful for a return by Opening Day is Rusin, who has increased his activity.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.