The Colorado Rockies never use the word "tank" when going through lean years. They prefer to classify it as retooling.
However it is described, a team in transition is continually bringing in new, young players to fit into the future. Colorado has had three players make their major league debutsthis season, most recently Karl Kauffmann, who started at Texas on Friday.
Things didn't go great in his first outing, but he will get the ball again when the Rockies host the Miami Marlins in the third game of a four-game series on Wednesday night in Denver.
Miami will counter with reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara (1-5, 5.05 ERA).
Colorado has won the first two games of the series, including 5-4 Tuesday behind Charlie Blackmon's 298th career double that moved him into second place on the franchise's all-time list. Blackmon passed Larry Walker, leaving him behind only Todd Helton (592).
Kauffmann (0-1, 8.31 ERA) had a promising beginning turn into a tough lesson against the Rangers. He cruised through three innings but ran into trouble in the fourth and ultimately was pulled after 4 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old right-hander yielded five runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
It wasn't discouraging enough to prevent him from getting the ball again, but there are things manager Bud Black wants Kauffmann to improve before he takes the mound on Wednesday.
"His challenge is he's got to keep the fastball at the knees," Black said after the Friday game. "He's got to get the ball to the inside corner against the righties. He's got to get in on some lefties. He's got to pitch."
Kauffmann acknowledged there were nerves, but having pitched in the College World Series for Michigan in 2019 was a useful experience.
"Being in a large setting like that, a very public game, I think that definitely helped," he said. "The nerves? I thought they'd be a little bit worse than they were."
Nerves seemingly aren't an issue for Alcantara, who made his debut in 2017 and emerged as one of the game's most durable pitchers over the previous two seasons. However, he has struggled in the first two months this year.
Alcantara, a right-hander, is coming off a tough outing at San Francisco on Friday night, when he allowed four runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings during a 4-3 loss to the Giants.
The Rockies also have proved to be a tough opponent for Alcantara. He is 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA in five starts against Colorado, and he gave up a career-high 10 runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings when he last faced the Rockies, on Aug. 6, 2021, in Denver.
Alcantara would benefit from some timely hitting. The Marlins have struggled with that in the first two games at Colorado, but Miami manager Skip Schumaker said his players aren't pressing.
"I don't think they're gripping the bat too tight," Schumaker said. "I think there are some pitches we're swinging out of the zone a little bit, kind of forcing it. Other times there's guys who made some good plays. I think there's a combination of things happening, but when you try to force it and make it happen is when you get in trouble."
--Field Level Media