Post-All-Star Break: Freeland in Line for Return to Rockies Rotation Saturday

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The Rockies announced their rotation for the initial post-All-Star Break games.

It's who wasn't named that is the most intriguing.

The Rockies left their starter for Saturday's game against Cincinnati listed as "undecided."

It would be better to say "unannounced."

Having addressed areas of concern during a six-start stay with the Rockies Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate, the word is Freeland is ready to resume his big-career with the Saturday game against the Reds the date of return. The Rockies cannot announce Freeland as the starter until he is activated, and a roster spot is opened for him, which most likely will wait until Saturday, giving the Rockies an extra body for Friday's series opener against the Reds.

The Rockies did formally announce Jon Gray will be on the mound at Coors Field when the Rockies open a three-game series against the Reds on Friday with Antonio Senzatela set for Sunday's start, and German Marquez pitching one of the doubleheader games against the Giants with Peter Lambert starting on Tuesday against the Giants. The Rockies are expected to recall Chi Chi Gonzalez from Triple-A Albuquerque to start in the doubleheader along with Marquez.

The focus, however, will be on the return of Freeland, who last year set a franchise record for a full season with a 2.85 ERA, which ranked fourth in the NL. He also finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

This year, though, things didn't click. Scouts are convinced that Freeland has been impacted by the slicker baseball with lower seams that has created problems for pitchers who rely more on command, such as Freeland, than power. Freeland did struggle early in the season with blisters under the nail of his left forefinger.

While not discussing the altered baseball, the Rockies did say at the time that Freeland was having problems getting a good grip on the ball, and having to dig his fingernail into the seam created a rubbing on the finger that led to the blister.

Freeland had an impressive Opening Day, picking up a 6-3 victory at Miami, allowing two hits, including a home run, and one walk while striking out five in seven innings. He, however, earned only one more win in 12 starts -- five of which the Rockies won -- before being optioned to Albuquerque after back-to-back starters against the Orioles and D-backs in which he combined to allowing 12 runs on 17 hits, four of which were home runs, in seven innings.

With Albuquerque, Freeland was told the focus was on his approach and pitch command, not results. The results were not overwhelming. He was a combined 0-4 with an 8.80 ERA in six starts. He, however, showed adjustments in his usage of pitches, and then on July 3 he allowed one run on four hits and two walks, striking out nine in seven innings of a 1-0 loss at Sacramento.

After chats with Freeland, reviewing video and talking to club officials who have been watching Freeland, the Rockies decided that the lefthander is ready to return, which isn't any too soon for the Rockies. They resume play 2 1/2 games back in the NL Wild Card, but also having lost six in a row, falling from the top team in the NL Wild Card race to a tie with the Pirates for the seventh spot in the bid for the Wild Card.

A team that opened the season 3-12 had rebounded, climbing six above .500 (40-34) and the top spot in the NL Wild Card Standings, but has since lost 11 of 15.

The Rockies are looking for Freeland to turn things around -- for himself -- and play a key role in helping the team turn around its season and get back on track for a third consecutive post-season appearance.