Christian Friedrich leaves start with elbow injury

July 18, 2010 | 10:39 pm | 10  

Double-A Tulsa left-hander Christian Friedrich, coming off his best game of the season and pitching better than he has all season lately after incorporating some mechanical changes, had to leave his start Sunday night against Arkansas when he was hit on the left elbow with a batted ball. Initial reports were that Friedrich suffered a contusion that is not believed to be serious, and he will be examined Monday.

After giving up three consecutive singles to the first three batters he faced and one run, Friedrich was struck on the left elbow by a hard one-hopper hit by Charlton Jimerson, who played briefly with the Astros and Mariners. The ball deflected back toward home plate, leaving the bases loaded and leaving Friedrich, one of the better pitching prospects in the Rockies system, unable to continue after throwing nine pitches, eight strikes.

Arkansas pushed across a second run in the inning that was charged to Friedrich, who took the loss in Tulsa’s 6-1 defeat to fall to 2-6 with a 5.20 ERA. Those are deceptive statistics, since Friedrich, who retired the one batter he faced in the Futures Game on July 11, was coming off two good outings _ successive wins in which he allowed eight hits and three runs in 13 innings with five walks and 21 strikeouts. He was making his first start since July 8 _ his 23rd birthday _ when he struck out a career-high 12 and allowed four hits in seven innings while winning 2-1 at Corpus Christi.

Tulsa pitching coach Bryan Harvey said Friedrich “commanded his fastball down in the zone the best that he’s done all year” against Corpus Christi and was incorporating some mechanical changes designed to help him do just that.

Left elbow inflammation, which caused Friedrich to miss a month of the 2009 season at high Class A, again shut him down at Tulsa after an April 19 start until May 14. Harvey said early in the season, Friedrich, the 25th player taken overall in the 2008 draft, pitched ” a couple of decent games, not great” but kept the Drillers, who were having trouble scoring runs, in the game.

“Then he went through the elbow (inflammation) and when he come back from that, it was just very inconsistent,” Harvey said. “The ball was up and nothing was sharp. About three starts ago, he said, ‘This is the healthiest I’ve felt.’ He feels good. He’s feeling more comfortable with what we’re trying to do with his mechanics.”

The result has been steady improvement, culminating in Friedrich’s game at Corpus Christi where he threw 64 of 94 pitches for strikes. In that outing, Harvey said Friedrich pitched for the first time “where he actually trusted” the mechanical changes Harvey and roving pitching coordinator Bo McLaughlin had been working on with Friedrich.

“We were trying to get him to stay at the rubber a little bit longer,” Harvey said. “The balance has been going towards the catcher and what’s that been causing is his arm to drag and the ball to stay up.
So we were just working on a couple things _ keeping better balance at the rubber where his hands could lead the way to the catcher and he could create an angle down the hill. He wants to force the angle. He wants to get his hand up really high and pull the ball down and it gets short of the catcher.”

Asked just how to achieve that better balance and get Friedrich to linger a bit longer over the rubber, Harvey said, “The one thing he did was when he would bring his front leg down, he would almost point his toe to the ground in front of his back leg. So we stopped the toe-pointing to the ground, tried to get it a little smoother where it would work up and down and it seemed to help him stay at the rubber a little bit.”

Friedrich is 87-93 mph with his fastball, the lower speed mostly his two-seamer. He has a slider-cutter type pitch that he has started to throw more often. Friedrich’s curveball is a plus pitch, and his changeup is getting better. At Corpus Christi, Harvey said, “He was able to throw it in a fastball count when he needed a swing and miss, and it’s a swing and miss pitch as well.”

10 Comments »

  • Eric W | July 18, 2010 | 10:40 pm

    Oh no… Hope this is minor…

  • ProgMatinee | July 19, 2010 | 10:17 am

    The Rockies curse with pitching draft picks continues. Who was the last pitcher the Rockies drafted to actually make a meaningful impact in the majors?

  • Matthew | July 19, 2010 | 10:26 am

    @ProgMatinee has to be Francis.

  • Joe | July 19, 2010 | 11:46 am

    I hope we don’t have to wait too long for a meaningful “impact”? E.g., Jhoulys Chacin.

  • fred | July 19, 2010 | 2:23 pm

    Chacin, Jimenez was not drafted.Francis as stated was the last.

  • ProgMatinee | July 19, 2010 | 2:55 pm

    Even Daley was undrafted I believe. Corpas and Morales I would consider as meaningful impact, but neither were drafted either. Buchholz came from the Astros.

    Really sickening to think that Francis is the only pitcher the Rockies drafted in 10 years that has succeded even remotely.

  • Joe | July 19, 2010 | 11:04 pm

    Fred,
    I had no idea – interesting. Things should be fun with Tyler Matzek.

  • Rich M | July 20, 2010 | 7:38 am

    C Friedrich and T Matzek are both highly rated (top 50) prospects, however right now I have some concerns about both of them. C Friedrich can’t seem to stay healthy and has clearly struggled this year at AA Tulsa – inconsistent would be putting it nicely.

    T Matzek seems to have some great stuff but the concern for me with him is that high walk ratio. Many pitchers with great stuff fail at the MLB level if they are unable establish that command of the strike zone (one walk or less for every three innings pitched). Couple of recent examples of pitchers with command issues would be F Morales and J Morillo.

    My unofficial benchmark for being a legit MLB prospect for the Rockies is that the pitcher has to really dominate the hitters at the AA Tulsa level for at least half a season. So far neither of these lefty starters has done that – not to say that they won’t at some point.

    One last thought – going into this season I thought the Rockies were loaded with quality minor league starters. The season is a long way from being over, but I have to say that I have been disappointed over all:

    T Matzek – see above but didn’t start the season until very late.
    C Friedrich – disappointing performance so far.
    B Billings – mild surprize at AA Tulsa.
    G Reynolds – I’ll be nice – very inconsistent.
    G Smith – remains the worst part of the M Holliday trade.
    E Rogers – partially due to “yo yo” effect, but overall not very good.
    J Chacin – performed as expected and now in the MLB.
    S Deduno – injured most of the season and getting older by the day.

    Not a track record of success so far, and as a result the Rockies minor league W-L record has not been especially strong.

  • Cisco Kid | July 20, 2010 | 11:33 am

    Rich M,

    One guy you left off your list is Juan Nicasio, who has performed well at Modesto. The Rox thought enough of him to protect him on the 40 man roster this winter.

  • Rich M | July 21, 2010 | 7:26 am

    Cisco, you are absolutely correct, J Nicasio has performed very well through the advanced A level. As I noted in my earlier post, the proof of prospect status for mr (unless your Matzek) will come if he can dominate at AA Tulsa.