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Struggling Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland optioned to Triple-A

May 31, 2019
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Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland (21) throws in the first inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Denver, Thursday, May 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

DENVER (AP) — Kyle Freeland thinks he has lost his direction on the mound.

So while the Colorado Rockies left-hander said it “stinks” that he’s been demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque, he’s keeping his mind open as he refines his mechanics.

Freeland is 2-6 with a 7.13 ERA this season and nowhere near the form he displayed last year, when he finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting.

Really, though, he’s not trying to return to that version.

“However I come back, that’s going to be the person I’m going to be,” Freeland said Friday in the dugout shortly after being optioned. “I’m not trying to repeat what I did last year. That’s kind of out the window at this point. I’m going to go down, learn — learn even more about this game and come back a better person, better athlete, better pitcher.”

The 26-year-old Denver native welcomed the chance to work on specific aspects of his game out of the big league spotlight. He said he’s not sure how many starts it might take to turn things around, but has a list of objectives.

“My direction down the mound. Keeping my arm slot on top. Making sure I’m drifting away from my direct line to the play, I’m not peeling off too much, I’m not curling in or anything like that,” explained Freeland, who was taken by Colorado with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft. “Trying to get that feeling of having a direct line to home plate and allowing my pitches to work off that.”

Asked where his confidence level was at, Freeland, the team’s opening day starter, quietly said: “That’s a good question. I don’t know.”

That’s a long way from last season, when he went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA. He started the NL wild-game in Chicago and threw 6 2/3 shutout innings against the Cubs as the Rockies won 2-1 in 13.

He wasn’t surprised by the move. Well, besides that it maybe didn’t happen sooner. Freeland posted a 10.17 ERA in May and allowed 11 home runs. He surrendered 17 homers in 2018.

“Obviously right now, every time out I’m kind of hurting the ballclub, not giving them a great chance out there,” said Freeland, who allowed five runs over three innings Thursday against Arizona. “Go down and get everything right, get back on track and get back to being me.”

That’s the sort of result manager Bud Black would like to see, as well.

“I think there was a reset that needs to take place here for Kyle,” Black said. “We feel like it’s going to help Kyle for the short-term and long-term. ... It’s time to take a step back and regroup for a period of time. I have no doubt that he will be back to where he wants to be.”

In other moves Friday, the Rockies reinstated lefty Chris Rusin (strained back) from the 10-day injured list. They also recalled righty Jesus Tinoco from Albuquerque and optioned outfielder Yonathan Daza to Triple-A.

Should Freeland need any advice there’s always teammate Jon Gray, who went through a similar experience last season and was briefly sent down.

“In this game, and in any professional sport, you have to be your best and worst critic,” Freeland said. “You have to know when you’re going good and also know things you need to work on. If you’re not able to do that, you’re not going to be able to make adjustments ever.”

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