March 25, 2020: Rockies lefty pitcher Kyle Freeland spent Wednesday, which was supposed to be the eve of the 2020 season, throwing. But with the season on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, Freeland’s throwing amounted to playing fetch with Benny -- his massive and quite good-natured German Shepherd. In Denver, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (where Freeland is) and in San Diego, where the Rockies were to have met the Padres, The weather will be on the high end of the magnificent scale. Forecasts across baseball cities reveal just one bad weather spot -- cold, rainy Chicago. Nonetheless, baseball draws big crowds, and those are a no-no as the world contends with a deadly virus.
“Even out here in Arizona, you know during Spring Training, the weather's beautiful right now, starting to heat up out here,” Freeland said while multitasking -- playing with Benny, and talking to Denver media on a conference call. “You really don't think that bad things are happening when you have beautiful weather. So yeah, that kind of thing usually doesn't go hand-in-hand.”
There’s no way of knowing when the season will begin, which means no way of knowing how to prepare beyond the plan that players will get some form of Spring Training before a schedule begins.
Freeland’s strong work during the abbreviated Spring Training put him in position to rebound from a rough 2019. Staying fresh during a time of closed facilities (the Spring Training center shared by the Rox and D-backs is closed) and social distancing can be boiled down to three keys:
1. Friends, at a distance
Freeland and right-hander Jeff Hoffman, who have clicked throughout their Rockies careers, get together for throwing most every day. And not to worry, the distances they need to throw keep them apart enough. Catcher Tony Wolters lives in Scottsdale, should they find the need, and a place, to ramp it up.
“Drew Butera [another Rockies catcher] went back to Florida,” Freeland said. “I'm pretty sure Tony's still out here. So, we'll begin with him here in the next few days to kind of set some things up if we want to throw some light sides just so we can feel like what it's like to continue to throw off a slope. It's mostly finding a place to do it.”
2. Stay in shape while supporting local business
“I actually have a trainer out here who runs a private gym, and he's been allowing me to come in and get my lifts in,” Freeland said. “That was nice of him to open up the gym to me. And I know he's a small business owner, so it's also kind of nice to help him out as well just because he's in a tough time right now as well.”
This is as much non-baseball as baseball. How does Freeland stay connected?
The phone is his friend.
“We get information from [Rockies senior director of Major League operations Paul] Egins, and anything from the front office,” he said. “And we have our players’ group message where we talk to one another, we check in on one another.
“Probably every day there are a couple texts shot out, checking in on guys, how people are doing, if anybody needs anything and discussing anything that’s going on in the baseball world right now.”
Fans are his friends, as well.
Freeland, his girlfriend, Ashley Chrisman, plus Benny and Kona, a golden retriever, are popular on Instagram and Twitter. Freeland (and Benny) thanked those keeping society running on one recent post. He said he gets and gives on social media.
“Any way that we can reach out to the fans and give them some content of what we’re doing in our lives while we're in this holding pattern, to maybe brighten their day, give them something to talk about,” said Freeland, adding that out of boredom he has been playing games on an Xbox he hasn’t used in two years. “Not just myself or the Rockies, [but] guys on teams who are active on social media have been able to reach out to their fan base, and baseball in general.” (T Harding - MLB.com - march 25, 2020)
|Birth City:||Denver, CO|
|Draft:||Rockies #1 - 2014 - Out of Univ. of Evansville (IN)|
In 2011, the Phillies drafted Kyle in the 35th round and offered him Top-10 money.
Freeland set the state’s single-season strikeout record as a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver. But the University of Evansville and Belmont were the only Division I programs to recruit him heavily. Kansas State and TCU came in late, but didn’t offer a full scholarship.
Three years later, this one-time diamond-in-the-rough is blinding big-league scouts with his potential.
“I don’t see a glaring negative,” said John Manuel of Baseball America.
Freeland spurned the Phillies offer after they drafted him. Instead, he went to the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana.
If there was a turning point, Freeland said it may have come in the summer of 2013. Pitching in the prestigious Cape Cod League, he was named an all-star for Hyannis after leading the league in strikeouts and ranking sixth in earned run average. His 15-1 strikeout-walk ratio ranked 2nd in the country and his 103 strikeouts ranked third.
He has maintained that stuff this spring (2014). Freeland has a loose arm and plus-plus control and projects to have big league command.
“It raised my confidence a bunch,” Freeland said of the Cape Cod experience. “Those are the elite players in the nation, so to have success there was big. Plus, I think it starts with maturing as a player and a person.”
Freeland’s control has always been a positive. His fastball touches the mid-90s and at least one scout uses the word “filthy” to describe his hard slider. Freeland’s change-up is also an improving pitch.
“I couldn’t have seen him throw any better,” another scout said. “It wasn’t even so much the performance, but the stuff. There were probably 20 scouts there, some scouting directors, and all of them I talked to were really impressed. One scout picking lower in the first round said it would be a waste of time for them to see him anymore after that.”
Freeland was drafted the same year former Evansville star Cody Fick was also picked by the Phillies. Though the two didn’t know each other well at the time, Fick played a role in leading him to Evansville.
“I asked him what he wanted to as far as playing the game,” Fick said, recalling the conversation. “I told him if you want to have fun and compete, there’s nothing like the brotherhood formed with college teammates. Maybe that helped him decide to go to school.”
“I knew I had to have a good year if I was going to improve my draft stock,” he said. “But it’s been even better to see our fan base consistently growing and people noticing we’re having a good season. That’s been better than anything.” (Kyle Neddenriep-2014)
- Kyle has a lean build similar to a surfer with broad shoulders and a V-shaped torso leading to a slim, trim waist and lean legs that will accommodate additional strength gains.
He also offers athleticism as a former all-state golfer in high school.
Freeland, a native of Denver, was born 39 days after the first regular-season game in Rockies history. The Rockies were his favorite team growing up.
June 2014: Freeland was the Rockies #1 pick in the draft. Kyle was the 8th player taken, overall, behind only P Brady Aiken, P Tyler Kolek, P Carlos Rodon, C Kyle Schwarber, SS Nick Gordon, OF Alex Jackson, and P Aaron Nola.
- Kyle has been to Coors Field countless times, but the June 10, 2014 visit held an added bonus—a $2.3 million bonus to be exact. He visited Rockies facilities to sign his bonus worth $2.3 million, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis. That number is less than the $3,190,800 assigned slot value for the No. 8 pick but Freeland, a Denver native, was just relieved to officially be a Rockie.
"It's always been my dream to come back to my hometown and play with [the Rockies]," said Freeland. "It's great to get this process over with and I look forward to playing baseball."
That process included "jumping through hoops" for doctors earlier in the day. Leading up to the Draft, teams speculated about the health of Freeland's throwing elbow after viewing his high school medical reports. While that surely affected his leverage in the negotiating room, it didn't affect the excitement he felt when he was there for the Rockies.
"When the eighth pick was there and they called my name, it was the best feeling in the world," said Freeland. Freeland grew up idolizing Rockies like Larry Walker and Todd Helton before setting the Colorado state single-season strikeout record while attending Thomas Jefferson High School in 2011. The Phillies selected Freeland in the 35th round that year and pushed hard to sign him, but Freeland elected to go the college route.
Freeland, who will spend the summer in Grand Junction playing Rookie Ball, felt significantly less confident walking through the halls of the Rockies clubhouse Tuesday. "It's a little intimidating, seeing all the pictures and everything and thinking one day I could be here," said Freeland. (Ulm - mlb.com - 6/10/14)
In 2015, Baseball America rated Freeland as the 3rd-best prospect in the Rockies organization. They had him at #6 in the winter before 2016 spring training. He was at #8 in the spring of 2017.
Freeland lettered three times in baseball and four times with in golf at Thomas Jefferson High School.
Kyle was electric from 60 feet, six inches in his spring outings. He was even better from 75 yards -- with a high-powered bow and arrow.
Freeland, a Denver native, had never picked up a bow and arrow until this past offseason, joining Tom Murphy and several other Rockies. Learning of this interest upon becoming the Rockies' manager, Bud Black organized a tournament. And Freeland, the newbie, smoked a realistic wild boar from 75 yards in the final round to win over Murphy, second baseman DJ LeMahieu, and bullpen coach Darren Holmes.
"I just got my first bow this past offseason," said Freeland. "I've never hunted before. I just wanted to pick it up and start learning."
As is often the case with athletes, any activity becomes competition. And Black figures anything involving fun and competition can be used for team-building during a Spring Training that can wear long.
"With Freeland, there is a passion for this," Black said. "And when there's a passion for something, there becomes repetition, so you practice.
"In our morning meetings, we talk about baseball, obviously, but with that we had some internal trash-talking about who could do 'this,' and who's better than who, and that sort of facilitates the competition. It's a good way for guys, a half-hour or 40 minutes, to loosen up before we start our day." (Harding - mlb.com - 3/12/17)
April 7, 2017: Kyle Freeland grew up 25 minutes from Coors Field in Denver's Hampden Heights neighborhood hoping someday to pitch there. But the first time he was invited to pitch there, the Colorado Futures Game when he graduated Thomas Jefferson High, he passed.
"Me and my friends had planned a senior trip down to Mexico," Kyle said. "I knew I had more baseball coming."
Freeland, a lefty pitcher, made his debut for the hometown Rockies and struck out six—including four straight—and held the Dodgers to one run and four hits in six innings of a 2-1 victory in his Major League debut before a sellout crowd of 46,169 for the Rockies' Coors Field 2017 home opener. The Rockies' top pick in 2014 out of the University of Evansville, Freeland—who arranged for 26 tickets but had a city full of support—had to control his nerves. A hit and two walks, with several close pitches, loaded the bases in the first, but Freeland forced a Yasmani Grandal grounder.
"I was trying to play it cool, but the butterflies were jumping around in my stomach," said Freeland, who came to the field early to soak in the moment and try to calm down. "I tried to stay focused on what I needed to do. After I got out of that first inning with that bases-loaded jam, I was able to settle right in a groove. I knew how my pitches were working."
Rockies manager Bud Black said, "I thought all day that Kyle was in a good spot, before the game talking to him and walking around the clubhouse. He looked good. I know he wasn't calm, but he looked calm." (K Gurnick and T Harding - MLB.com - April 8, 2017)
Kyle wasn't scheduled for his next start until the 16th of May, which meant he could celebrate two occasions on the 14th: Mother's Day with his mom, Susan, and his 24th birthday. And he did do both in his hometown.
Freeland has had quite a few special occasions at home. He received the honor of making his Major League debut in the home opener in front of the entire family on April 7, 2017. Freeland pitched out of first-inning trouble and held the Dodgers to one run and four hits in six innings of the Rockies' 2-1 victory.
Freeland's poise wowed his mother, as it always does. Susan played softball growing up. "I do not have his calm demeanor," said Susan Freeland, who works as secretary at Holm Elementary School in southeast Denver. "They put me in once to pitch, and I was a nervous wreck. I don't know how he does that."
As a youngster, he said, "I would try to think of myself as certain pitchers, like Jeff Francis … Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa." His mom saw that, especially when they would run home from lunch from the elementary school and play catch.
"When you think about baseball, you think of dad and kid, but she was behind the scenes, doing a lot of work," Freeland said. "She'd be in the backyard with me when I was little and dad was at work and she'd be home for lunch. She's be throwing balls in the backyard and I'd be saying, 'One more.'"
Now he was pitching—as himself, not imitating one of his idols—right there at Coors. It would have been nice if he could have seen his mom's face during the home opener. "I really wasn't able to see them," he said. "We had a pretty packed house that day, but I knew what section they were in. I'd kind of glance up every once in a while and try to pick them up. But I could feel that they were there."
His mother was right there with him. When Freeland began consistently hitting the strike zone, meaning he had settled in, she calmed somewhat but couldn't quite relax. She had a good enough time to answer texts from folks who saw her face on television and she enjoyed the company among the family. It wasn't until Freeland left the game, though, that she truly relaxed.
"We always joked about your first time up there, just expect that it's going to get blown apart -- expect the worst because you're out there and the nerves are going to get you," she said. "It was wonderful to see how he held it together. I have no idea how he can do that, but he enjoyed it and we definitely enjoyed it." (Harding - mlb.com - 5/14/17)
May 25, 2018: Rockies lefty pitcher Kyle Freeland grew up about 15 minutes from Coors Field, and he provided living proof to children at Castro Elementary School that their dreams might not be far away, either. Freeland showed up for the school's field day, and cheered and directed the boys and girls. As a product of Denver public schools, he played in the R.B.I. (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City) program as a youth, and starred at Thomas Jefferson High School before going to the University of Evansville and then being drafted in the first round in 2014. Freeland wants to stay close to his roots.
In his second year with the Rockies, Freeland is in the early stages of encouraging those who are growing up like he did. And he's not just pushing baseball or sports. Freeland and John Fuller, of Full Athlete Marketing, want Freeland delivering the message of participation in several disciplines.
"I got to talk with some of the kids, interact with them, take some pictures and just enjoy the day with them," Freeland said. "I was at the obstacle course, where they had to jump over some hurdles and jump through some standing-up hoops, like a relay race kind of thing. They were out there having fun.
"At their age, you want them to get a taste of everything and find what they love, whether it be baseball, football, soccer, anything. It doesn't even have to be sports. It could be playing an instrument. Education is key and it comes first, but at the same time you want to find something that you can put your heart into."
Freeland had some events in Pueblo, Colo., and in Denver—at Holm Elementary, which he attended and where his mother still works in the office—during the offseason.
But this was his first under this program, which he hopes to continue in the future. He had to back out of a couple other this year, 2018 because they were on days he was scheduled to start for the Rockies. (T Harding - MLB.com - May 25, 2018)
July 5, 2018: The Rockies just finished up a stretch of 22 games in 23 days. Over the course of a big league season, MLB players don't get too many days off. But when Colorado starting pitcher Kyle Freeland looked at this week's schedule, he realized he had the chance to do something special. The Rockies arrived in Seattle close to 1 a.m. following their 1-0 win over the Giants in Denver. Nonetheless, Freeland sacrificed a few hours of sleep to make it out to this week's 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.
"A bit of a quick turnaround," he admitted. "But it wasn't that bad."
Freeland was out of bed by 8 a.m. and made it to the University of Washington to spend some time with four of the local teams Colorado sent to the Games—soccer, bowling, tennis and track. Freeland gave pep talks, practiced celebration dances, took photos and even pitched to a few of the younger kids during his time at the Games.
"Truly incredible athletes," Freeland said. "It's really amazing watching them do what they do and how similar to us, how committed they are to their sport." One tennis player and Rockies fan wasn't shy about engaging in a little trash talk with Freeland, who has gone 8-6 with a 3.25 ERA this season. "Yeah, I probably serve harder than you throw," she told him. The excitement of having Freeland in the stands started to have a noticeable impact on her game as her team won a gold.
"You could see her just light up on the court and almost start dancing as she was about to serve," said Georgia David, Volunteer, Family Services and Athlete Leadership Manager at Special Olympics Colorado. "We were trying to get her to calm down so she could focus on the game but she was particularly very excited and was super stoked to meet him post-match, and post-gold medal match which was even better."
Heading into the 4 x 100 relay, the only athlete of the 29 Colorado athletes who had not earned a medal was set to compete. Freeland shared one last pep talk with the group before they competed. "Pull for your teammates, work hard and have as much fun as you can," Freeland told them. When it came time to start running, the athletes were pulling for more than just their own teammates. "We're doing this for the Rockies," one athlete yelled just before the race.
The team clinched bronze in what David called a very competitive heat of eight states, meaning every Colorado athlete at the games medaled. Freeland was jumping up and down on the sidelines and cheering them on the whole time.
"I'm so happy for our athletes that they were able to kind of show their stuff to him," David said. "I think they all really admire what he does and his athleticism and they were really excited to show off their own." It's moments like those that made the outing worth losing a few extra hours of sleep. "Not a hard thing to get out of bed for," Freeland said. (D Gottlieb - MLB.com - July 6, 2018)
Kyle would like to pursue a pro golfing career when he is finished with baseball. (Cut4-MLB-July 2018)
When you ask Kyle's teammates to define his strongest trait, one specific adjective transcends the Rockies' clubhouse.
"It's his competitiveness. First and foremost. It predicates everything else," catcher Chris Iannetta said.
"I love how competitive he is. He's very hard-nosed, very intense when he's out on the mound. It serves him well," outfielder Matt Holliday echoed.
"He's ultra-competitive and he feels that, even if his stuff isn't there," third baseman Nolan Arenado added.
His second big league season of 2018 has demonstrated his competitive mentality. Freeland has quietly dominated hitters this season, one year after an encouraging rookie campaign in which he earned a few votes for NL Rookie of the Year. There was no "sophomore slump" for the 25-year-old southpaw. Freeland has highlighted a young starting pitching staff eager to change the dynamic in Denver.
Perhaps it's fitting that a homegrown kid, who was born in Denver and attended Thomas Jefferson High School (just 13 miles from Coors Field), is the face of a new wave of talent in Colorado. While Freeland is quick to claim that he's just one of five guys, his stats this season may be enough to change the conversation on the evaluation of pitchers at the hitter-friendly ballpark.
"For so long it's been about knocking hitters there," Freeland said. "Over the 25 years the Rockies have been around, there's only been a handful of pitchers that have had true successful seasons there. I think with myself, and the rest of the young starting staff, we're starting to make people aware of the fact that you can have good pitching in Denver." (Woo - mlb.com - 9/23/18)
Nickname: "F. STANLEY" -- “When I was growing up there was an elementary school project, Flat Stanley,” said Freeland, a lefty starting pitcher. “My friends would call me that when I was growing up -- they still call me that to this day because I was skinny growing up, small guy.”
- Jan 10, 2020: kyle and the Rockies avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one year deal.
Freeland has a 90-97 mph FASTBALL he commands to both sides of the plate, a plus 84-87 mph SLIDER that eats up lefthanded hitters with late-breaking tilt, that can come out like a cutter He also has a fair 78-82 mph CURVEBALL that gets a 40 grade. And he can also use that slider to back-foot on righthanded batters. He also has a fringe-average CHANGEUP that has some fade, due to a new grip he began using late in the 2015 season.
The altered grip: "It was kind of me getting comfortable throwing it with my pinkie and ring finger instead of throwing it mostly with my ring finger and my middle finger,” Freeland said. “That helped kill a lot of velocity.” Kyle said the pitch sits at 84 mph, and he’d like to drop it to 80 mph.
He has good life, velocity and command of his heater. And it has varied fastball movement in every direction, featuring explosive glove-side run on his four-seamer and arm-side run on his two-seamer. He produced downhill plane and sink, pitching in the lower half of the zone on both outer-thirds of the plate. He creates deception in his delivery, and the ball jumps out of his hand with a loud fastball.
"But my slider is still my out pitch," Freeland said. He has strong feel for it, that is for certain. He can throw it with a very tight, late break with tilt and boring action or with more of a horizontal, late sweeping action—or anywhere in between. "My slider is my #1 pitch," he said. "Then my curveball would be behind that, and then my changeup behind that. But off my fastball, my slider is definitely my go-to pitch.”
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 31.4% of the time; Change 32.5% of the time; Change 6.6%; Slider 5.8%; and Cutter 24.4% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 38.8% of the time; Sinker 13.5%; Change 13.4%; Slider 6.6%; and Cutter 27.6% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.6 mph, Sinker 91.3, Change 86.2, Slider 81.8, and Cutter 86.7 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 41.5% of the time; Sinker 11.6%; Change 11%; Slider 5.3%; and Cutter 30.6% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.4 mph, Sinker 91.8, Change 86.7, Slider 81.3, and Cutter 87.2 mph.
Kyle is a tall, thin lefty with a loose delivery and strong arm. His delivery has some effort and leaves him spinning toward third base from an arm slot that can be a tick below three-quarters. Some are unsure if his thin frame will hold up over a full season, despite his remaining physical projection. The delivery concerns are balanced by supreme strike-throwing ability
He has very good command that rates a 65 or 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. So, throwing strikes is not a problem. And neither is throwing inside to hitters, fearlessly, not just for intent, but to get guys out.
Freeland is at least a #3 starter, with a shot at moving up a notch with good health. (Spring, 2016)
Spring 2018: Before a solid rookie season in 2017, Freeland added a little stop and kick, "the Kershaw pause," he called it, to his delivery. He won 11 games and nearly threw a no-hitter, but some bad habits developed as well.
This year, Freeland has figured he doesn't have to be Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' ace. Freeland showed that being himself just may be good enough.
Rockies pitching coordinator Darryl Scott negotiated the pause—originally adopted to keep his weight gathered at the top of the windup—out of his delivery in November.
His new-look delivery is part of that, since he is better able to keep his momentum toward his target.
"We both agreed that I needed to find something that makes me more directional and gets rid of my front leg swing that was making me rotational," Freeland said.
October 2018: Freeland started the NL Wild Card game on short rest against Jon Lester and the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Rockies won in extra innings.
2019 Improvements: Kyle says he is developing a new pitch. Freeland did confirm that he is working on a new pitch of sorts and it is with developing his sinker, which he has tinkered with before, but now, he is “exploring with the different locations we can go with it now.”
Freeland added that once he got his new mechanics consistently last year, he started talking with Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters about throwing “more left-on-left changeups [and] throwing that front-hip sinker to righties” so that he could add more to his arsenal in different locations and counts.
He said that the hardest part about adding these two new “pitches”, or current pitches but differing locations, is “communication with yourself, your catcher, and anyone that you’ll kind of want to lean on about it.” One of those players is Ryan McMahon, who Freeland said that he has been using as his left handed hitter for his changeups.
So, essentially, he will still have his current mix of pitches but with working the pitches in new places, he will have different looks to hitters. (Noah Yingling-FanSided-Jan. 27, 2019)
May 8, 2019: Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland says that he's paying more attention to correcting the struggles of the last two starts than looking for a blame point at the reasons for them. Freeland has given up 13 runs, including an alarming five homers, in 12 innings in losses at Milwaukee and at home to Arizona. Those games came after he missed a start with a left middle finger blister.
“I don’t think the blister or me thinking about my finger has anything to do with it,” said Freeland, scheduled to start against the Giants at Coors Field. “At that moment, when I’m throwing a pitch, I’m committed to the pitch. Whatever happens, happens. I’m not worried that, ‘A blister might happen right here on this pitch.’ I’m thinking about executing this pitch.”
But after finishing fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting last year, Freeland (2-5, 5.90 ERA) isn’t executing. And Rockies manager Bud Black -- along with pitching coach Steve Foster and Freeland, himself -- have pinpointed a correctable issue.
"His pitches have been hung. He’s got to get the ball down,” Black said. “There’s a groundball component to his game that he’s not taking advantage of because the ball’s elevated. Now, elevated pitches are just a matter of release point.”
A quick Statcast comparison of each of the five homers (two on four-seam fastballs, two sliders and one changeup), compared to balls hit into outs while using the same pitch (12 four-seamers, four sliders, two changeups), points directly to release point.
The release points compared were vertical, or the distance the ball was from the ground when it left his hand, and horizontal, or the distance of the hand from his body.
Home runs: 5.89 feet vertical, 1.43 feet horizontalField outs: 5.79 feet vertical, 1.46 feet horizontalProblem: Higher and slightly narrower release
Home runs: 5.60 feet vertical, 1.79 feet horizontalField outs: 5.49 feet vertical, 1.89 feet horizontalProblem: Higher and narrower release
Home run: 5.74 feet vertical, 1.51 feet horizontalField outs: 5.84 feet vertical, 1.67 feet horizontalProblem: Lower and narrower release
"We are in a good spot -- look for some changes with Kyle in those areas soon,” Foster said.
Freeland said that during his sessions while recovering he could have slipped into “maybe some habits that I wasn’t aware about, just my body protecting itself without me thinking about it.”
But the key is that, with full confidence in the health of his finger, he spent the last several days making corrections.
“There could be a million different things of why,” Freeland said. “It all comes down to executing your pitches, having good outings and holding a team at bay and giving your team a chance to win.” (T Harding - MLB.com - May 8, 2019)
March 24, 2019: Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland has plenty of success to look back at as he takes the mound for his first Opening Day start March 28 in Miami.
As of the start of the 2020 season, Kyle had had a career record of 31-29 with a 4.14 ERA, having allowed 477 hits and 59 home runs in 462 innings.
2020 Improvements: Working extensively with new bullpen coach Darryl Scott, Freeland has ditched the pause in his delivery in favor of a more fluid motion. After doing “dry work” through the fall and early winter (working on his delivery without throwing a baseball), Freeland began throwing bullpen sessions two weeks ago. In addition to his fastball, slider and changeup, he’s also working on incorporating a curveball into his pitching mix.
The impetus behind the change in Freeland’s delivery can be summed up in one word: consistency.
“Last year, I was having trouble repeating my delivery,” Freeland said. “In 2018, I was very comfortable with my mechanics and I understood them very well. I was able to repeat them on a start-to-start basis. A lot of that went sideways last year after I started to struggle.
“I felt like with the (delivery) I was starting and stopping and then starting again. I wasn’t being consistent.”
Scott said that was especially true when Freeland attempted to control the running game.
“Kyle will now have a more consistent release point,” Scott said. “That will help with fastball command and his secondary pitches and when he has men on base.”
Scott, who worked with Freeland at Albuquerque in 2016, has a reputation as an excellent teacher. Freeland is certain Scott has him back on track.
“He’s been great, very patient,” Freeland said. “He understands that no two pitchers are the same. There is no cookie-cutter approach.”
The Denver native, a hometown hero who came two outs away from throwing a no-hitter against the White Sox at Coors Field in July 2017, has proven he has the right stuff to succeed in the big leagues. Scott is confident Freeland will prove it again in 2020.
“Kyle is one of the best competitors I’ve ever coached,” Scott said. “He wants to win in everything he does and that carries over into his pitching. There are no expectations that can be put on Kyle that are bigger than the expectations he has for himself. He’s always succeeded in meeting those expectations.” (Patrick Saunders - The Denver Post - January 19, 2020)
March 17, 2020: Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland looked to be coming out on the other side of a rough 2019 before MLB halted Spring Training amid real-life concerns about COVID-19. In normal times, Freeland would be nearing the regular-season games during which he will show what he has learned. For now, as we be safe and look ahead to when baseball returns, Freeland can feel better-educated -- no small pleasure.
“It’s just really being able to continue to learn,” Freeland said. “You can never stop learning in this game and you shouldn't stop learning in this game. That's one thing that my dad taught me at a young age is never stop trying to learn about this game in every aspect. “So, for me, learning somewhat of a new delivery at the highest level is interesting, and I'm learning stuff about myself and about my mechanics that I haven't had to really think about for the past three years.”
German Márquez and Jon Gray are healthy and coming off solid years, and Antonio Senzatela is maturing. Add to that Freeland finding his form, and just maybe a still-young rotation can turn the clock back to 2018, when the Rockies led the National League in innings pitched and the team went to the postseason.
Freeland led the rotation by going 17-7 and finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting and fourth in the league ERA race (2.85) in ‘18. Last year’s 3-11, 6.73 ERA that included two trips to the injured list and one to Triple-A Albuquerque is forgettable, except for the lessons.
Two Cactus League starts -- two innings, one run against the Athletics on Feb. 27 before his back tightened; three innings, one run, four strikeouts against the Indians on March 8 -- suggest Freeland learned from last year and applied it. Since last season, he has been removing some hesitation from his windup in hopes he will locate pitches better. Freeland said his first spring start, when the only hit was a Chad Pinder home run, was his graduation into a new and bright 2020.
“Obviously, the back injury didn't help but I think [I was] seeing the results in those two innings, minus the home run,” Freeland said. “The execution of pitches -- seeing the swings I was getting -- the action I was getting on my pitches, the velocity of my pitches. It was very pleasing to see that. “We worked all offseason with this. And we got it to a point where now it's working in a game situation in a competitive environment.”
Freeland, 27 on May 14, plans not just to turn back to 2018 but to evolve.
Freeland’s key throughout his career has been working glove side -- inside to right-handers/outside to left-handers. In 2018, the four-seamer held opponents to a .248 batting average and .391 expected slugging percentage. It set up a slider that yielded just a .203 BA and .324 XSLG.
Last year, however, opponents feasted on the four-seamer --.295 BA, .562 XSLG. The slider numbers were elevated -- .250 BA, .421 XSLG. His location was slightly off, and opponents adjusted to his style.
The key will be using his fastball on both sides and opening up the arm side with his changeup -- a soft counter to the hard four-seamer and slider.
“Fastball-slider is his best stuff, and an emerging slider that he is gaining confidence in,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He feels great. He got three strikeouts on changeups [against the Indians] in a Spring Training game.”
Freeland’s education brings fond memories of learning by hanging out with a brother three years older, watching, learning and eventually bringing out his own talent. After possibly trying to do too much, first by pausing as he strode toward the plate and last year by pausing at the top of his windup, Freeland is throwing like a kid again.
“Going back and watching the video, I can actually see a lot of that delivery from when I was in high school in college,” he said. “I remember the kind of pitcher that I was back then, and it relates to the pitcher I was my first two years in the big leagues -- an aggressive, in-your-face kind of pitcher.” (T Harding - MLB.com - March 17, 2020)
- Kyle is a very good fielding pitcher.
- Freeland is a real athlete. He is even a good hitter for a pitcher.
2014: There were medical reports that cast doubt on the health of his elbow.
But the Rockies were not concerned. Their doctor performed arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow when he was in high school (in 2009 or so).
April-July 24, 2015: Freeland had some shoulder soreness in spring training and began the season building arm strength in extended spring.
But soon, he was under the knife, undergoing surgery to have bone chips removed from his left elbow.
August 5-15, 2017: Kyle was on the DL with a strained left groin.
April 19-29, 2019: Kyle was on the IL with blister on middle finger.
Aug 21-Sept 21, 2019: Kyle was on the IL with left groin strain
Feb 27, 2020: After beginning to warm up for a 3rd inning, Freeland departed with back spasms following an on-field consultation with head athletic trainer Keith Dugger. However, Kyle wasn’t concerned that this will be a long-term issue, and he had a positive mindset shortly after his departure.
“It’s good," Freeland said. "It’s a little tight right now. It locked up on me a little bit when I was warming up, so just kind of decided to shut it down, not make anything worse out of it. It should be just a few days and be fine. I’m not too worried about it, [Dugger] doesn’t seem too worried about it, so we’re just going to take it day by day right now, but it shouldn’t be an issue.”