Rockies' Friedrich finds success in simplicity

Rockies' Friedrich finds success in simplicity

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-handed pitcher Christian Friedrich is a smart guy, quite analytical. But the Rockies and Friedrich found that turning off his brain was the key to success.

Friedrich went 0-3 with a 9.45 ERA in three starts last season before the Rockies sent him to Triple-A Colorado Springs to be retrained as a relief pitcher. From Aug. 27 until season's end, Friedrich was scored upon just once in 12 relief appearances and held opponents to a .098 batting average and .143 on balls put in play. Counting an early 1 2/3-inning appearance, Friedrich had a 1.64 relief ERA, with 10.64 strikeouts per nine innings.

"I do tend to overanalyze," said Friedrich, 27. "The best piece of advice guys give me every time I turn around to a pitching coach or something is, 'Stop thinking. That's your problem.' There are so many things to take advantage of -- the video and statistics, since there's a stat for everything. But now I'm going to use my best stuff, and you're going to react to me. I'm a little more crisp.

"You watch guys like Jeremy Affeldt, who have a good breaking ball or can just locate the fastball -- a 1-2 pitch combo and they can come in for a batter, then the next game they're used again. It just seems like a lot of fun to have the opportunity to be in every single game."

Affeldt, a mainstay with the Giants' championship bullpen, was converted to relief while with the Rockies in 2006. The Rockies are looking for similar success with Friedrich, their No. 1 Draft pick in 2008. The signs are there. In his relief appearances, Friedrich's four-seam fastball was 92.4 mph, as opposed to 90.9 as a starter. His slider, his best pitch, bit at 87 mph as a reliever, 83.9 as a starter.

"He's found his niche -- it suits him very well, his personality," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.

Weiss is not committed to using Friedrich as a left-on-left specialist. But the possibility exists because the splits, in starting and relief work combined, were extreme last season. Lefty batters had a .138 average, righties .318.

Friedrich is out of Minor League options, but as long as he confirms this spring that he belongs, he can join Rex Brothers and Boone Logan to give the Rockies a three-lefty bullpen.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.