Perched atop the dugout steps is Kyle Freeland. He’s not starting, nor will he see the field outside of extreme circumstances. While his left arm is of no service to the team on his off day, he’s merely contributing to the Colorado Rockies in whatever way he can.
The examples of divisions in the world are plentiful. Republican and Democrat, Pepsi and Coke; the varieties are immense. For the Rockies’ clubhouse, the dismissal of becoming a divided group started on the farm and has been the root for their success thereafter.
“I think (coming up with each other) goes a long way because you’ve been through a really tough grind in the minor leagues with those guys, you’ve seen guys at peaks and guys at valleys,” Kyle Freeland said. “You understand them on a level that many can’t outside this clubhouse.”
The club’s comprehension of others in both their triumphs and mistakes has been tested multiple times.
In their 3-12 start, the offense was often the culprit. They scored 38 runs total in the opening stretch of the year, a measly 3.2 runs per game. Matching their run deficiency, the club ranked last in the National League in a bevy of various stats, buoyed by slow starts from both Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon.
“I think early in the year, everyone was wondering if we could hit and we were pitching well,” Arenado said. “Now we’re hitting and we’re struggling (to pitch) a little bit. I think it happens. There’s no pointing the finger around here. Baseball is a hard game, you can’t be doing that.”
Pitching deficiencies have become the new story. Since their early flummoxing of various opposing offenses, the arms of the Rockies have seen their earned run average balloon to a National League-worst 5.03.
Even in games where the offense has shown a prowess that evaded them in the early months, wins haven’t been guaranteed.
“I would say (frustration is) there, it’s not something that people are gonna go out and say that ‘these guys didn’t do their job’,” Chad Bettis said. “I feel like you kind of know from within. If our hitters come out and put up seven (runs) and we lose… we didn’t do our job that day.”
A veteran of the team, Bettis was demoted to the bullpen after a rough start of his own. The somber stretch has spanned to Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and even German Marquez at times.
Tasked with an opportunity to garner the first save of his career in the club’s latest win, Bettis came through. Since his inception to the big leagues, it’s all about helping the team, no matter what the role is.
“It doesn’t matter, really, what I do,” Bettis said after the club’s win on Tuesday. “I just want to win.”
His attitude is not anomalous. Each player in the clubhouse leans on each other in times of strife, the same way they did when Major League Baseball was a distant destination.
The hitters of the club know that things will even out. Blaming the pitchers, an easy route to take in a severed relationship, is simply out of their nature given their connection to one another.
Golf trips, card games and diverse conversations all intertwine the group put together by Jeff Bridich and the man before him. When the club is on the links, everyone is welcome. The leader of the outings once again is Freeland, a former golf standout at Thomas Jefferson High School.
While each outing plays a role in keeping a competitive spirit, baseball is off limits.
“It’s a mental break from the game, that’s how I look at it and I know a majority of guys look at it,” Freeland said. They just want to be out there, they wanna get their mind on something else, have fun with one another… We’re (at the stadium) from 1 o’clock to close to midnight every single day, it’s a nice break to have to get your mind off this grind.”
Bonding has become natural for a club that has grown through their 20s together. Scott Oberg, Freeland, Arenado, Trevor Story and numerous other Rockies all went through the grueling reality of the minor leagues. All are featured prominently in the club’s future.
The goal is a reduction of coming to each other’s aid. Creating a balance between the lineup, rotation and bullpen is the apex to their hard work and the mark of a ‘good team’.
“Early in the year, we were very bad as an offense and (the pitchers) picked us up,” Story said. “Now it’s our turn to do that and hopefully, we’ll get it going to where everybody is playing well at the same time.”