Baseball in Limbo: Freeland Focused on Being Ready for The Resumption of Play
Coming off a 2018 season in which he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting, Kyle Freeland drew the season-opening assignment for his hometown team, the Rockies, at Miami a year ago. In a season that had few things go right, Freeland enjoyed what was easily his personal highlight. Freeland allowed a Jorge Alfaro home run and only one other hit in seven innings of a 6-3 Rockies victory.
This year. ...
There is no Opening Day -- at least not for now. Baseball has joined the rest of America -- and most of the world -- in shutting down operations in light of the coronavirus outbreak that brought spring training to a sudden end, and has led to speculation of a series of scenarios that range from an optimistic mid-May Opening Day to the first shutdown of an entire season in the history of Major League Baseball.
This year, Freeland is hanging out at his Scottsdale, Az., residence, playing catch with fellow pitcher Jeff Hoffman, waiting and wondering what might happen next.
"It's definitely weird," said Freeland. "They tell you to expect the unexpected. I don't think anyone ever expects this. ... In all the years I've been playing baseball, whether it was high school, collegiate, minor leagues or the big leagues, it's very strange knowing that we are not going to be playing baseball on Opening Day. ... I've been thinking about baseball every single day since spring training shut down and it sucks.
"We want to play baseball. We all want to compete. We all want to start chasing down the goal we set. Right now we can't do that. We're in a holding pattern."
The hope remains that they will be playing baseball sometime this summer, whether it be in mid-May or sometime later. Representatives of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association continue to meet, negotiating on a series of items, including how many games can be fit into a schedule that starts late, and how to deal with player salaries and player big-league service time in a season most likely to be cut short of the 162 games.
Meanwhile, players are working out on their own, anticipating a call back to "spring training" for what figures to be at least a three-week period in which teams will fine tune for the start of the 2020 season.
"I'm still throwing pretty much every single day, keeping my arm going, keeping my body moving, trying to stay in the best baseball shape I can," said Freeland. "I've been throwing with Hoffman pretty much every single day. I know (catcher) Drew Butera went back to Florida. I'm pretty sure Tony (Wolters, the Rockies No. 1 catcher) is still out there. We'll be getting with him in the next few days to kind of set some things up if we want to throw light sides so we can feel what it's like to continue throw off a slope. It's mostly finding a place to do it."
The Rockies initial efforts to continue working out at their spring headquarters, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, ended when the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community, which owns the facility, shut it down in the aftermath of spring training being put on hold.
Freeland, however, continues to focus on getting ready for a season that he is excited about in light of an adjustment in his mechanics, which eliminated a windup he used a year ago that included a lengthy mid-air hesitation with his right leg en route to delivering a pitch.
In addition to the throwing sessions with Hoffman, he has access to a private gym run by a trainer he works with during the off-season.
""He has been allowing me to come in and get my lifts in so my body can stay in shape," said Freeland. "He's a small business owner so it's nice to help him out, as well, just because he's in a tough time right now, as well. ... whenever I've been in there, it's just been me and him. He 's got spray bottles of cleaner and rags and whatever I touch, once I'm done using it, I make sure I wipe it down so I can help him out."
And when the daily workout routine has been addressed?
"I played a fair amount of board games," said Freeland. "I've turned my Xbox on that I haven't turned on in about two years. I've taken my dogs on a lot of walks. I've spent as much time outside as possible, anything to fill the time that we usually spend on the field, trying to keep my head on straight."
Freeland works to keep his focus on the anticipated delayed start to the season, not the uncertainty that hangs over America in general, right now.
"It's definitely frustrating, but at the same time, I need to recognize the position we're all in and keep my focus on what I need to do and what I want to accomplish," he said. "I need to make sure that I'm continuing to do my work, make sure my arm is healthy, active doing everything I can for whenever we get that notification of we're going to (restart) spring training, my mind and my body is prepared to jump back into that mix. And making sure that when I get back on that bump, I feel good and ready to be right back in that place that I was when we did go on pause."
He wants to be ready to be that guy who set a franchise record two years ago with a 2.40 ERA at Coors Field, putting together what was easily the second best season for a starting pitcher in Rockies history. He was 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA, right there with the 2010 season in which Ubaldo Jimenez went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA.
"I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy," he said. "I know us, as players, we want to play. I'm sure owners and MLB baseball in general, and the Players Association all want to play ball. But this whole thing with the virus, that comes first. That needs to be taken care of. That needs to be calming down before we can starting putting things in place."
That leaves Freeland playing catch with Hoffman on a field in Scottsdale, keeping in shape for a season he hopes becomes reality.