Last season, then-rookie Kyle Freeland earned a spot in the Rockies’ starting rotation in the spring, and went on to a solid rookie season, going 11-11 with a 4.10 ERA to tie for the team lead in wins with fellow rookie German Marquez. After the Rockies were eliminated from the postseason in the wild-card round, they’re looking for more in 2018.

Freeland, a Denver native who played high-school baseball at Thomas Jefferson, joined Nate Lundy, Shawn Drotar and T.J. Carpenter of Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 from southern Colorado as part of the Rockies’ annual caravan that takes them all around the Rocky Mountain region to connect with fans, and said that growing up with mile-high altitude helped prepare him for the unique challenges of pitching at Coors Field — Freeland’s home ERA of 3.72 was nearly a full run better than his road mark of 4.57.

“I think that might have something to do with it; it’s a little backwards there,” Freeland said. “I think I have a little advantage, but at the same time, whether you’re at home, on the road, at altitude or not, you still have to stay focused on making your pitches and living in the bottom of the [strike] zone. That’s something I try to keep my eye on, no matter where I’m at.”

Freeland, 24, is part of a youthful Rockies rotation that surprised despite their relative inexperience. Marquez and Antonio Senzatela are still just 22, while Jeff Hoffman is 25 and Jon Gray is the oldest of the bunch at the ripe old age of 26. Those five returning pitchers started the most games for the Rockies in 2017, and Freeland thinks that their youth is an advantage, rather than a disadvantage.

“We’ve got a good mix of young guys and veterans; I think it’s the right kind of mixture,” Freeland said. “The young guys are hungry to win and compete and show their talents, and then we have the vets [in the bullpen], who are there to help us out when we struggle and need to learn something — something that they’ve been through and can help us get through that better ourselves; help the team as a whole.”

Manager Bud Black, in his first season with the Rockies last year, was credited for his work with the young rotation, easing them through with the benefit of his experience earned through a 15-year major league career as a starter himself. Freeland said that credit was well-deserved.

“[Black] helped tremendously. He’s a pitcher’s manager, so he’s been where we are right now,” Freeland said. “He loves working with us; before we broke camp — even in spring training and before that — he was extremely encouraging to the young pitchers about having confidence at the big-league level… He really wants to see you learn and succeed.”

For Freeland, who grew up in Colorado as a Rockies fan, the enormity of what he accomplished hit home over the winter. “I took some time and reflected on my season; on the highs and the lows. It was pretty surreal, knowing that fact [that he led his hometown team in wins as a rookie].”

“It’s pretty humbling, too.”

To listen to the complete interview with Kyle Freeland, including his thoughts on the free-agent additions to the Rockies’ bullpen and who the biggest ‘goofball’ is in the clubhouse — Sorry – this audio content is no longer available., or in the player below.

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Catch Mornings at 5280′ with Nate Lundy, Shawn Drotar and T.J. Carpenter every weekday morning from 7a-9a on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup. Download all-new the Mile High Sports Radio mobile app for Apple or Android.