Hoffman Set to Return to Rotation; Rockies Looking to the Left for Bullpen Help

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The Rockies aren't making any announcements.

But the signs are strong that Jeff Hoffman will rejoin the big-league rotation this weekend, taking the place of left-hander Tyler Anderson, who will undergo what could be season-ending surgery on his left knee.

The AAA Albuquerque Isotopes on Wednesday morning changed their probable starting pitcher for the evening game in Las Vegas from Hoffman to To Be Determined. With two off days last week, and another on Monday, the Rockies have been able to stay with a four-man rotation.

After a three-game series in Pittsburgh this week, and no day off before opening a homestand a fifth starter will be necessary by Saturday.

It, however, would not be a surprise if the Rockies decided to start Hoffman on Friday, limiting his time off in light of the fact he was supposed to pitch for the Isotopes on Wednesday, but also to provide an extra day between starts for lefty Kyle Freeland.

Freeland, who finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting last year, has struggled this season. He is 2-5 with a 6.02 ERA, and coming off the worst start of his career. At Philadelphia on Sunday he retired only five batters, but threw 65 pitches, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks, striking out two. That's an average of 12 pitches per batter.

It also was the shortest non-injury start of his big-league career. He did pitch only a third of an inning against the Phillies on Aug. 4, 2016. He threw a strike to Aaron Altheer, the third batter he faced in the game, and departed with a strained groin. He threw only 11 pitches, 10 for strikes.

This has been a forgetable start for Freeland. While he had problems early last year, they did not linger into May. By having that extra day between starts, Freeland might benefit from working with pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darron Holmes both Tuesday and Thursday, and having Friday to get ready for a Saturday start.

Hoffman made an emergency start earlier this season, and allowed four runs in five innings. All four runs, however, came in the third inning when he allowed four of the six hits the Nationals had against him. In the four other innings, he allowed two hits, and struck out five.

Hoffman, the most touted player acquired from Toronto in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, appeared at the big-league level each year since 2016, but has never been able to cement a job in the rotation.

Hoffman has had his struggles with the Isotopes this season, but he did have an impressive three-start stretch prior to his last start -- May 17 -- against El Paso. He won his three previous starts, allowing four earned runs on nine hits and frive walks, striking out 27, in 18 1/1 innings.

While the focus right now is on adding to the rotation, the Rockies continue to watch the progress of veteran Jorge De La Rosa in extended-spring training. De La Rosa, who was with the Rockies from 2008-16, is the franchise's all-time leader in wins (86) and winning percentage (.585). He ranks second to Aaron Cook in games started and innings pitched.

The past two seasons, spent primarily with the D-backs, who dealt him to the Cubs for the stretch drive a year ago, he appeared in 124 games out of the bullpen with a composite 3.77 ERA. De La Rosa signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies on April 5, and is now looking to pitch in games.

“Now he’s full-go off the mound, and at some point this week, he’ll get into games,” Rockies senior player development director Zach Wilson told Thomas Harding of mlb.com. “This is his Spring Training, because he didn’t have one. He’s in shape. We’ll get him a few outings and just see what happens at that point.”

The Rockies could use an additional left-handed reliever. Mike Dunn is the only lefty who has been on the active roster all season. Jake McGree returned to the active roster on Friday, and did appear in Saturday's game in Philiadelhia, his first appearance since April 1 and third of the season.

Chris Rusin has been on the injured list all season with a mid-back issue that has sidelined him since March 1. Harrison Musgrave, the other lefty who opened the season with the Rockies, went on the injured list May 4 with a left elbow flexor strain.