Kyle Freeland went through a nightmare of a season in 2018, but the Colorado Rockies left-hander salvaged something out of it, and it's paying off.
Freeland went 3-11 last season after winning 17 games in 2018 and finishing fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting. He has looked like a different pitcher in his first three starts to this season, and will try to continue that success when he starts against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
Arizona will counter with right-hander Zac Gallen (0-0, 2.81 ERA) in the second game of the series. The Diamondbacks won the opener 12-8 on Monday night.
Gallen is making the most of the opportunity he is getting with the Diamondbacks. He was acquired from the Miami Marlins before the 2019 season and went 2-3 with a 2.89 ERA in eight starts last year. He has pitched well this season despite not having a win to show for it.
He has so far justified the deal that brought him to the desert in exchange for minor league infielder Jazz Chisholm.
"We felt like he was the kind of guy who if we didn't jump on him ASAP, it was going to be too late," Jake Porter, the Diamondbacks' assistant general manager, told The Athletic.
Gallen has faced Colorado twice in his career -- both times in 2019 -- and has no decisions to go with a 2.70 ERA. One of those starts came at Coors Field, where he allowed two runs and nine hits in four innings.
Gallen will continue to get opportunities with Mike Leake opting out of the season due to the coronavirus and lefty Madison Bumgarner landing on the 10-day injured list Monday with a midback strain.
The Rockies have won all three of Freeland's starts this season. Freeland (2-0, 2.41 ERA) has found success in the use of his changeup, which he worked on last year when he was rehabbing from a groin injury and during spring training and summer camp.
"During the offseason and this hiatus, I realized the changeup, it can be a massive role in my arsenal," Freeland said Monday. "During the downtime and doing rehab, I started throwing a ton of changeups. I got comfortable with it. I knew it would have to be one of the top pitches in my arsenal."
Freeland will try to improve on his history against the Diamondbacks. In 12 career starts versus the NL West rivals he is 3-4 with a 5.57 ERA. He has fared worse at home, where he is 1-3 with a 7.12 ERA in seven starts against Arizona.
Freeland has been part of a starting five that has started off strong. Before Jon Gray's tough outing on Monday, Colorado starters had given up three or fewer earned runs in 21 straight starts, dating back to September.
It has been a positive turnaround from a tough 2019.
"A lot of these guys have been parts of a good pitching staff that made the playoffs," Rockies manager Bud Black said Monday. "Last year was tough for starters and relievers. Their personal expectation was they would bounce back, and that was my expectation. I've seen them pitch well and make adjustments."
--Field Level Media