DENVER (CBS4) – On Saturday Colorado Rockies pitcher Christian Friedrich learned what so many pitchers before him already have — Coors Field can be oh so cruel.
But Friedrich remains a bright spot for the Rockies. He’s a lefty who can well become a mainstay in their rotation for the next decade.
Friedrich was a pitcher in complete control when he made his debut two weeks ago. He looked like he’d been a major leaguer for years. He may have looked it, but he sure didn’t feel it.
“It wasn’t the first inning. In the first inning I didn’t have the jitters and all of a sudden the second inning I felt like my knees were shaking when I was in the stretch or something,” Friedrich said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
Five days later Friedrich was back on the mound. This time in San Francisco and again he was terrific. This time he felt like he really belonged.
“I felt like I was a little more locked in,” he said. “I still have the butterflies in the first inning. You don’t know if you’re going to throw one over the fence behind the backstop or if it’s going to be right down the middle. But as soon as that first one gets out of my hand it feels back to normal.”
The Rockies drafted Friedrich in the first round in 2008, and frankly it’s been anything but smooth sailing. He struggled in the minors in large part because of injuries to his elbow and back. But he also let himself get out of shape, and at time he seemed as interested in video games as he was in baseball.
But this winter he lost 30 pounds, and while he still loves video games, he decided he loves baseball more — much more. So his agent arranged for him to spend some time in Arkansas with one of the game’s best pitchers.
“He was there with Cliff Lee and he had a chance to sit there and observe Cliff Lee and all of a sudden it dawned on him as to where his lead arm needs to be and what it is that he has to do to get this thing to work this way,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
“I went in there with my elbow hurting for the first three days and after playing catch for three days watching the way he threw the ball and the way he got on top of it the pain magically went away,” Friedrich said. “I learned how to get back on top of the ball and that was the biggest change.”
Like any young pitcher Friedrich is going to have his ups and downs. Saturday was of course a big bump in the road, but he’s a lefty with a fastball in the 90s and a curve that falls off the table. And he’s a young man who wants to learn as much as he can about his craft.
“I like the way he goes about his business. For me there’s something about preparation that’s really important in this game,” Rockies pitcher Jamie Moyer said. “Wanting to win, the desire to be successful every day whether you have the ball or you don’t. I know he’s trying to learn something and I think that’s really important. That’s what’s going to allow him to mature a little quicker, to maybe grow a little faster.”
Friedrich’s next scheduled start is Friday against the Cincinnati Reds.