|Friedrich impressed in his debut.|
With as much pressure as can come in a early May start, Friedrich's debut went off without a hitch.
The former first round draft pick, who as late as last season was labeled a bust, pitched six strong innings, giving up just two runs, only one of which was earned. In those six frames he gave up five hits. The most important stat, however, was the strikeout to walk ratio. The lefty struck out a Rockies-season high seven batters, and walked only one.
The simple fact is that the Rockies have been struggling. A problem that could be brushed off as early season struggles was suddenly thrust into the spotlight when the starting pitchers blew leads of five runs and six runs on consecutive nights.
That, coupled with their expected ace, Jhoulys Chacin only missing out on a trip back to the minors because of an inflamed shoulder, suddenly showed just how serious the pitching issues are for this team.
On the verge of being swept for the second straight series, the Rockies got more than they could have hoped from their rookie. Mixing a 93 MPH fastball with a big bending curveball, Friedrich didn't seemed fazed by the extra set of seats that come with pitching in a Major League stadium.
The start, combined with the Rockies bats breaking out of their mini-slump, helped the Rockies avoid the sweep and, for the time being, kept them from being too far buried in the National League West.
It may be early, but this team, at their age in the field and youth on the mound, cannot be expected to be able to put together a run and claw their way back from a seven or eight game deficit. If they want to contend, they must stay in the race all season long.
More important than staying in the race in May is staying mentally focused.
The offense has come out in the early-going of the season and proven that they are one of the top teams in the National League. Top-to-bottom, this team is going to hit. Of course, there are going to be some bumps along the way, but for the most part, the offense is going to score runs.
With an offense that scores runs, even mediocre pitchers should be able to at least sustain the team. They should lose a few games here and there because they get blown out of the water, but for the most part, if the starting pitchers can keep their ERA's in the 4.00 neighborhood, the club should win their fair share of games.
The Rockies plan in the offseason seemed to be just that. Build an offense that is exciting, while working with a pitching staff that is filling the gap until the next round of prospects is ready to make their splash. The plan would have worked, but it was difficult to foresee the struggles of Chacin and the injury to Jeremy Guthrie.
What that means is that the future had to arrive quicker. Instead of giving Friedrich and Alex White, Tuesday night's starter, at least half of a season in Triple-A, they were both thrust into duty.
In their first starts, both pitchers have shown that they might just be the better option than the guys who started the season with the big club. Of course it is far too early to tell how things will play out, but both starters were impressive.
Both pitchers going at least six innings was impressive enough, but the fact that they were able to keep the Padres run total down was the most relieving part. A strong performance by the starting pitcher for the Rockies seems so foreign at this point that two in a row is like a kid getting out of school for summer.
As hard as it is to suggest that a game in May is as important as this game felt for the Rockies, there is reason. This team traditionally struggles on West Coast trips. This eight-game road trip through San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco has the potential to set the tone for the season. The way the team has been playing a 2-6 or 1-7 trip would not be surprising. That might be the confidence buster that could take a team that felt like they could compete and turn them into a club that has no chance.
The performance of both White and Friedrich were huge boosts for this team. If they want to compete, it has become clear that they will need these two pitchers to rescue the sinking ship that is the Rockies pitching rotation.
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