Kris Bryant has no return timetable from injury; Kyle Freeland’s MO; Brendan Rodgers’ nightmare: Rock Stock

Kris Bryant played catch Sunday morning in a quiet corner of Coors Field, the sum of his baseball activity. He was stalled on takeoff to begin his Rockies tenure, sidelined by a lower back injury that has no clear timetable. He’s now 22 games in without a home run and waiting.

On Friday, the Rockies put their star left fielder on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Tuesday. Bryant is not yet swinging a bat and only Sunday threw for the first time since he was removed from the lineup.

“Especially now, with how good players are, you have to be close to peak performance. And I just wasn’t feeling good, “Bryant said Sunday. He played through two games in pain, in Detroit and Philadelphia last week, before alerting the team of his injury. The Rockies tried to hide him on their bench long enough for the pain to subside. But they ran out of time and needed a replacement, calling up rookie Elehuris Montero.

“I wanted to say something. Of course, there’s always frustration, but it’s all part of the game, ”Bryant said. “You’re gonna have bumps and bruises along the way, some that you can manage and control and others that you need to speak up and say something about. I just felt this was something I wanted to try to find a way to get under control. ”

In March, Bryant signed a seven-year, $ 182 million deal with the Rockies to complete a months-long courtship that started before the league’s winter-long lockout. His jump into a new career in Colorado did not make a splash. Through more than three weeks of the season, Bryant has played in 15 games. He’s hitting .281 with a .689 OPS, below league average.

More concerning, the ball was not popping off his bat consistently. The rate of his hard contact, according to FanGraphs, fell well below his career standard.

It’s difficult, Bryant said, to know how slowed he was by a lingering back issue or if a slump was just that.

“The results in the fields weren’t what I wanted them to be,” Bryant said. “In a game, you kind of let your adrenaline take over. That’s a great, powerful drug, too. So I was kind of relying on that. ”

Back injuries can be tricky. And Bryant could not say when he would start swinging a bat, or when he might return, or if he would need a trip to the minor leagues to ready himself. The Rockies do not know either.

“In the past, I’ve been in situations where you say you’re coming off this day, it does not happen and it creates more of a story than you want it to be,” Bryant said. “I’m just working day to day. But I’m optimistic, in terms of being ready when I can be. “

So the Rockies will wait for Bryant’s first Coors Field home run as he bides time in the infirmary. His impact, they hope, will come soon.

“There are a lot of hits to be had out there,” Bryant said, looking through mirrored sunglasses at Coors Field’s outfield. “I think we’re in the right direction.”


Kyle Freeland ducked into the tunnel to Colorado’s clubhouse in the first inning Sunday for some catch. He grew antsy to get back to the mound, but his team was on a roll.

“I was doing everything I could to keep my legs going,” Freeland said.

After Freeland faced the minimum in a 1-2-3 first inning, the Rockies then sent 12 batters to the plate in the bottom half against Reds starter Reiver Sanmartín, an extended deluge that put a six-spot on Cincinnati. They did it again in the second inning, with eight more batters taking turns for three more runs. And Freeland twiddled his thumbs again.

After the Rockies were swept in four games by the Phillies last week – and in ugly, blowout, error-filled fashion – they returned to Coors Field to do the same against the Reds. Freeland capped a Colorado series sweep by giving up just a run and four hits over seven dominating innings for a 10-1 victory.

“Philadelphia was really tough for us. We got back home and we flipped the script, ”Freeland said. “It was a great way for us to turn the page.”

It was Freeland’s best outing of the year and not just by numbers. He threw a full arsenal at the Reds, a nearly even mix of fastballs, sliders, curveballs, change-ups and two-seam sinkers. He threw no one pitch more than 30 percent of the time.

His matchups against the Reds’ two best hitters – Joey Votto and Tommy Pham – were clear examples of what Freeland does best. The scouting report on Pham says he’s a selective, patient hitter. And Votto will fight through junk to pick a pitch, usually a fastball, to cause damage.

Freeland scouted even more, seeing that both of them were swinging early in counts in the first two games of the series. And he leaned into their tendencies. He threw early-count fastballs up and in to Pham and in on the hands of Votto, hoping for early weak contact. When they failed, Freeland followed with diving curveballs low and away to Pham and darting sliders down and out to Votto.

Together, Freeland struck out Pham and Votto four times in total.

“He has to use his fastball,” manager Bud Black said. “The strikeout to Votto in the seventh was set up by the two fastballs in. Fastball, first-pitch strike. And a fastball that made him jump back a little bit. So here’s Votto saying, ‘Boy, there’s two fastballs. Is he gonna throw me a slider or he’s he gonna throw another fastball? ‘ The sequencing and the location of his fastball was superb. I loved that. ”

Freeland is fresh off signing a five-year, $ 64.5 million contract extension that will keep the Denver native at Coors Field through 2026.

Since 2017, when Freeland entered the league, his 4.51 ERA at Coors Field is the best among current Rockies starters. His ability to force soft contact and lure in double plays is an effective strategy, even if Coors Field demands strikeouts to completely negate the expansive outfield and the threat of bloop hits.

“I’ll take outs anywhere I can get them, any way I can get them,” Freeland said.


Freeland’s appearance Sunday started the fifth turn through the Rockies’ rotation, but through four cycles, newcomer Chad Kuhl remains their most productive starter, with a 1.90 ERA.

Kuhl, in a way, is like a right-handed version of Freeland with a slimmer pitch mix. He does not strike out many batters (fewer than Freeland, but more than Antonio Senzatela). But, when he’s right, Kuhl excels at avoiding hard contact.

With the Pirates, his previous team, Kuhl’s numbers were skewed. When he returned in 2020 from Tommy John surgery, Kuhl was forced to throw a heavy dose of four-seam fastballs, a typical maneuver for a pitcher after elbow surgery. But the four-seam fastball is Kuhl’s worst pitch, and his park-adjusted ERA shot up to 6.48, with a home run rate of 1.55 per nine innings.

In 2021, he sanded down the problems as he settled into health and his only significant issue was allowing too many walks.

With the Rockies, Kuhl has improved once again. His career-best 2.66 walks per nine rate is the result of tightening his heat map with pitches that are less easily dismissed by a hitter. Kuhl on Saturday pitched into the eighth inning, giving up three runs on five hits over 7 1/3 innings against the Reds.

“I’m eliminating big misses out of the zone,” Kuhl said. “Everything is coming into the zone or near the zone where my two-seam and slider play off each other well. “I’m just staying out of the middle of the zone as much as possible.”


The Rockies dugout “was electric” Sunday, Freeland said, after Brendan Rodgers singled in a run in the first and doubled in three runs in the second. Rodgers was hitting just .078 (4-for-51) in April, a stretch so troublesome that Black pulled him from the lineup for four days, in part to rest a sore back.

“Not hitting and not contributing is not a great feeling,” Rodgers said. “I do not think it was my back. I was just a little bit in my head and trying to do too much, trying to hit two homers in one at-bat. ”

His relief Sunday was apparent. He clapped his hands hard rounding first base after his single and pumped his fists into his legs at second base after his double. April, he hopes, is history.

“I do not ever want to think about that month again,” Rodgers said.


Freeland threw just 80 pitches through seven innings Sunday, but Black pulled him in part to give relievers Robert Stephenson and Carlos Estévez some action, and in part to save Freeland the strain. It just was not necessary to stretch Freeland against an awful Reds lineup. “I told him, ‘There’s gonna be a game where the score is a little different and if you’re throwing like this, I’m gonna leave you in the game,” Black said… CJ Cron’s first-inning home run Sunday off Sanmartín, a two-run line drive shot to the left-field bleachers, gave him eight homers this season – most in the National League. He trails only the Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo with nine for the majors lead… Randal Grichuk opened his Coors Field account with a homer in the eighth. It was his first Coors Field home run with the Rockies… Montero, who was called up to replace Bryant in the Rockies’ lineup, debuted Sunday as a designated hitter and promptly collected his first two hits, singles in the first and seventh innings. As the Reds made a pitching change in the first, Connor Joe found Montero at first base for a congratulatory hug… Monday served as MLB’s deadline to trim rosters from 28 players to the standard 26, so the Rockies made three moves to comply: They sent Montero, right-hander Ryan Feltner and infielder Alan Trejo to Triple A. They shared a flight together on Sunday night to Oklahoma City, where they joined the Isotopes. The Rockies will also activate utilityman Garrett Hampson after recovering from a hand bruise.

(Photo of Kyle Freeland: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

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