Tyler Kinley is the 2022 Colorado Rockies.

He may have quietly turned a corner last year. It’s tough to be entirely sure where his current path truly leads but right this very second, he is playing some very good baseball.

Also, like with the rest of the team, Kris Bryant may have been onto him and the rest of the ‘pen while so many in the outside world weren’t giving them a chance.

“I think we have incredible stuff in our bullpen,” Kinley says. “KB is a great example of that, his first conversation when he signed with the Rockies was ‘man I’m tired of facing you guys.’” 

Bryant’s belief in his new team is well documented and, so far, well rewarded. He sees in Kinley, and others, a strong trend in the right direction.

The righty looked lost at times in the first half of 2021 but made some key adjustments to steady himself. Now, he is anchoring Bud Black’s bullpen as the go-to fireman, ready to come into the game in the most high-leverage situations.

“It’s a great intensity, I love it,” Kinley says of his new role. “I like to prepare myself so that when Buddy calls, he knows I’ll be ready to go.”

Interestingly enough, Kinley says, sometimes coming into the game with traffic and a few outs to get has helped focus his game a bit.

“When you come into those situations,” he says, “As hectic as everything is on the outside – guys on base, the score, all that stuff – the simpler the mindset I have, the better opportunity I have to be successful.”

And it’s hard to be much more successful than he has been so far, pitching 7.1 innings without having yet given up a run.

The key? 

“Just attack and trust my stuff,” he says. “Sometimes if you have too long to warm up you get too many thoughts in your head and you can go down a bad path.”

When he’s locked in, “There’s not much room for extra thought,” he says.

But it isn’t all mental. Time and work had to be put in to get Kinley to the place he’s in today.

“There’s definitely some mechanical things that I’ve cleaned up and some bad habits that I used to fall into that I cleaned up. I think awareness is the biggest thing. I think I have a good understanding with our coaches about how I move and how I pitch and I think we’ve been able to reset things quicker if I start to fall out of line. That process has been sped up and it’s allowed me to be more consistent.”

There has been a similar transformation across the entire bullpen who have already been more reliable over the first 15 games than they ever were as a unit a season ago. Kinley has his own theory for why.

“I think the more time we spend together the more we are able to challenge each other and hold each other accountable, the more we push ourselves,” he says. “We start to see what wins look like and understand our roles in that.”

A comfortable present may be one of the most unnerving things in the game of baseball though. Relievers are perhaps more aware than anyone about how difficult the grind can get over a marathon season. 

Rockies starters need to get more length. These guys need a day off. But Kinley says that he is confident that his peers in the ‘pen are ready for the long-haul.

“Our bullpen takes pride in availability. We all want to throw every night. Nobody wants to take time off.”

So how do you make sure you are always available then? 

“Our preparation off the field. Sleep, nutrition, diet, workout, treatment in the training room, pre-game catch play, making sure we aren’t fatiguing ourselves, staying ready and sharp. It’s also about our bullpen work and mound work before the game. We need to do enough to keep us ready but not too much to fatigue us.”

Tyler Kinley is the 2022 Rockies.

He’s confident, happy to be wearing the uniform he is, and proud of the steps he has made as an individual and that his club has made as a team.

He’s pitching well right now and feeling good. But he also knows there is a long road ahead and they’ve only just begun.