TEMPE, Ariz. — Jeff Hoffman‘s spring project went “live” Sunday afternoon with mixed results, but ultimately it left the Rockies’ right-hander satisfied.
“It felt good. My whole body felt good,” Hoffman said after starting against the Angels in Colorado’s Cactus League opener. “I felt like I was consistent with my delivery and my windup. So that was something good to feel at game speed. That sets a good foundation, and that’s where we need to be.”
Hoffman began tweaking his delivery late last season, making it shorter in a quest for better command. Hoffman, in the mix for the back end of the starting rotation, issued a four-pitch walk to open the game and threw 26 pitches in the first inning. He ended up allowing two runs on three hits over two innings while striking out three.
“I threw all of my pitches, and it felt good to get them all into action,” Hoffman said. “They all had good shape, and that was one of the things I was focused on. From there we can kind of fine-tune things.”
Manager Bud Black, stressing that Hoffman has not “revamped” his delivery, said: “Overall, his stuff was fine and his delivery looked good. The main reason Jeff has done this is to become comfortable with all of his pitches.”
Zero-sum game. Right-handed reliever Scott Oberg pulled off the seemingly impossible last season. While his fellow bullpen mates were giving up home runs by the bushel at Coors Field, Oberg didn’t give up a single home run there, while posting a 1.71 ERA and limiting hitters to a .191 average.
Black said there was no big secret to Oberg’s success.
“He can naturally keep the ball down, and that’s a point of emphasis for him,” Black said. “He kept most his pitches out of the middle of the plate, and he’s got the ability to move the fastball. He can throw it at the top of the zone, and he can move it inside on guys. It’s a function of making pitches.”
Oberg, the primary righty setup man, who took over as closer late in the season for the struggling Wade Davis, threw his last pitch Aug. 16, before undergoing surgery to correct blood clots in his throwing arm. Black said that Oberg has been given a clean bill of health.
Footnotes. Monday will be an interesting day on the mound for the Rockies when they host the Indians at Salt River Fields. Rotation candidates Chi Chi Gonzalez and Peter Lambert are scheduled to pitch, as well as right-handed relievers Bryan Shaw and Carlos Estevez. … Black watched recently signed reliever Daniel Bard throw a side session Saturday and came away impressed, saying, “He threw really well.” Bard, plagued by control problems, has not pitched in the majors since 2013.