Colorado Rockies fans feared the worst after Kyle Freeland left a spring training game with left shoulder tightness.
The spate of pitchers needing Tommy John surgery also heightens anxiety, but it was just shoulder tightness in the left-hander’s case.
Still, it took Freeland two months to get healthy and make his first start of the season, which came May 25 at the New York Mets. He made another start in Pittsburgh five days later, and Saturday night he will make his first home start when the Rockies face the Oakland Athletics.
The A’s posted a 9-5 win in the opener of a three-game series on Friday.
Oakland will send left-hander Cole Irvin (3-7, 4.12 ERA) to the mound on Saturday against Freeland (0-0, 4.50).
Freeland emerged as the team ace in 2018 and then struggled the following season. He was trying to re-establish himself before the injury sidelined him until late May.
Freeland has lasted just four innings in his first two starts and has struggled with his command. He has walked seven batters in and struck out just six in his first two games, however pitching coach Steve Foster has encouraged him to be patient.
“I definitely feel like I’m just getting my feet wet against big-league hitters; facing guys who have already had a couple hundred at-bats,” Freeland said after his most recent start. “I’m still getting going. Fostie told me, ‘Give yourself a little bit of time.’
“He knows that I’m a little bit frustrated right now, especially with my (high) pitch count. We know that’s not me, so I’m going to make some adjustments. But I definitely know that I’m only two starts into the season.”
While Freeland has been walking batters, Irvin has been relatively stingy in that area, but he has been scuffling lately.
He owns an 0-4 record with a 5.40 ERA over his last five outings, and opponents are hitting .284 against him in that span. His losing streak matches the longest losing streak of his career (May 22, 2019-April 8, 2021).
One bright spot for him is he has walked two batters or fewer in each of his 11 starts, including nine starts with one or fewer. Overall he has issued 11 walks in 27 innings.
Irvin allowed four runs on six hits in six innings and took the loss against the Los Angeles Angels in his last start, which came after his worst outing versus Seattle on May 25.
“What’s worked for me in the past is getting inside on them,” Irvin said after the loss to the Mariners. “My approach might be a little too soft where I’m pitching away and leaving one slider up or fastball where it shouldn’t be and getting hit around.
Saturday will be Irvin’s second career start against the Rockies and first at Coors Field.
His only outing against Colorado was May 17, 2019, when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies. In that game he allowed four runs — three earned — on five hits over six innings and got the decision in the Phillies’ 5-4 victory.
Freeland won his lone career start against Oakland. He scattered five hits over six scoreless innings to pick up the victory.
–Field Level Media