Against the odds, Lyles a rotation candidate

Against the odds, Lyles a rotation candidate

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Jordan Lyles has gone from a long shot to a prime candidate for a spot in the Rockies' season-opening starting rotation.

Lyles had a 14-29 record and 5.35 career ERA in 72 games, including 65 starts, from 2011-13 for the Astros, who sent him and outfielder Brandon Barnes to the Rockies for center fielder Dexter Fowler during the offseason. But Lyles, at 23, was thought to have been rushed to the Majors, and the plan was the Rockies could give him the development time he needed.

Now, however, Lyles is 0-1 with a 1.13 ERA and seven strikeouts, while allowing eight hits in three Cactus League games, including two starts, and is hanging right with more-experienced lefty Franklin Morales, who is 2-1 with a 3.97 ERA in four starts, for the final rotation spot. Lyles will start on Sunday against the Dodgers at Glendale, Ariz., live on MLB.TV at 2:05 p.m. MT.

Morales will be moved to the bullpen if Lyles wins the job. Manager Walt Weiss said Lyles is not a bullpen candidate. He has an option, so he'd be sent to the Minors if not in the rotation.

The Rockies and pitching coach Jim Wright noticed that Lyles was not landing as solidly on his front leg and suggested a tweak in the delivery to help. It has helped with Lyles' fastball, and Lyles has added a cutter -- a pitch he had used on and off in the past.

Giving in to adjustments, instead of staying in a comfort zone, has helped him succeed.

"For myself, those two go hand-in-hand -- I needed to tweak some things, and that's going to help me results-wise," Lyles said. "What we tweaked or changed in the delivery wasn't something crazy that would have taken a month or two to feel comfortable with. It was a little tweak, and I was able to roll with it quickly."

Lyles concentrated on the fastball early in spring but unveiled the cutter in his last outing, when he held the Cubs to two hits and struck out four in three innings.

Lyles hopes to make an Opening Day roster for the first time.

"There's a lot of competition here," Lyles said. "I had my opportunities in Houston to break with the team, and I didn't take advantage of those opportunities. That comes back to me and no one else."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.