Right-hander Jeff Hoffman, who was considered the key player for the Rockies in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, has put together a string of impressive starts, which could set the stage for him to be called up and fill the fifth starter spot for the Rockies.
Tyler Anderson was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on May 4, and because of off days and postponements, the Rockies will not need a fifth starter until May 25. Anderson has since opted to have his left knee examined by doctors in Chicago on Monday, creating the possibility he could be moved to the injured list.
Hoffman would seem to be in line to fill Anderson's spot in the big-league rotation. The Rockies had planned to call him up to start Saturday's game, but when the Wednesday game against the Giants was postponed, the Rockies decided to keep their four current starting pitchers on a more regular work level and opted against a roster move.
What gives the Rockies flexiblity is during the upcoming road trip they are scheduled off on Monday, Thursday and May 20. That leaves them not needing a fifth starter until a May 25 game against the Orioles at Coors Field.
Hoffman and Anderson were both first-round draft picks out of college. Hoffman was selected by the Blue Jays ninth overall in 2014, and the Rockies selected Anderson with the 20th selection in the first round in 2011.
The Rockies have given both of them opportunities in the big leagues each season since 2016, but neither has been able to claim a role in the rotation. What's more they have both seemed to take a step back each year.
Hoffman did show signs in his one big-league start this year -- a 6-3 loss to the Nationals on April 23. He allowed four runs, all in the fourth inning, but was unscored upon in the four other innings.
It was almost like that struggle became a motivation for Hoffman. Since being returned to Triple-A Albuquerque he has put together the best three-start stretch of his career. He is 3-0 since rejoining the Isotopes, allowing four earned runs on nine hits and five walks, striking out 27 in 18 1/3 innings.
Anderson, meanwhile, has yet to pitch since his option to Albuqeruque, and will undergo a medical exam on his left knee, which has been a continuing problem.
He did struggle after opening the season in the Rockies rotation. He worked five or fewer innings in each of his five starts with the Rockies this year, the first big-leaguer to do that in the first five starts of a season since 1913 when earned runs were first tabulated.
That included giving up six runs on nine hits -- two home runs -- and three walks in four innings of a 10-6 loss to the Dodgers in the Rockies season opener. He allowed at least five earned runs in all five of his big-league starts.
In Saturday's Games
AAA Albuquerque (20-17) won 5-3 at Fresno (Nationals). Hoffman allowed two runs on four hits, striking out 10 for the second start in a row. James Pazos (13.50) earned his first save. Roberto Ramos (.272) hit his seventh home run. Josh Fuentes (.265) was 3-for-5 with a run scored. Sam Hilliard (.240) was 2-for-4 with a triple, RBI and run scored. Chris Rusin, in his third rehab assignment, retired all four batters he faced, inlcuding striking out one. Jake McGee, in his second rehab assignment, allowed one run on two hits and a walk, striking out one in one inning. Rusin and McGee will both pitch for the Isotopes on Tuesday, and join the Rockies in Philadelphia on Friday, at which time the decision will be made whether to activate them or send them to Double-A Hartford for another appearance or two.
AA Hartford (19-17) won 2-1 against Harrisburg (Nationals). Rico Garcia (4-0, 1.69) allowed one run on four hits and two walks, striking out eight in 5 2/3 innings. Willie Abreu (.200) was 2-for-3 with an RBI.
High A Lancaster (21-15) won 3-2 at Modesto (A's). Matt Hearn (.336) was 2-for-3 with a run scored, RBI, triple and stolen base. Braxton Lorenzini (2-2, 4.30) earned the win with a shutout inning of relief. Salvador Justo (3.84) earned his fourth save. Antonio Santos (3.99) allowed two runs on six hits and a walk, striking out six, in seven innings.
Low A Asheville (12-22) lost 9-8 against Greenville (Braves). The Tourists sent 10 hitters to the plate in a six-run third inning, but faded late, Greenville scoring the final three runs in the eighth. Willie MacIver (.282) was 2-for-5 with a double and RBI, and Grant Lavigne (.250) was 1-for-3 with a double and RBI. Boby Johnson (1-2, 6.00) suffered the blown save and loss, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks, striking out two in one ining. Aflredo Garcia (9.30) started and allowed five runs, four earned, on seven hits and a walk, striking out nine, in five innings.