'Nothing is given': Kahnle aims to secure spot in 'pen with big spring

Young Rox pitcher working on slider, improving performance in tight situations

'Nothing is given': Kahnle aims to secure spot in 'pen with big spring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-handed pitcher Tommy Kahnle trusts that the experience of making the Rockies' bullpen in 2014 as a Rule 5 pick will help this year, when camp is full of plenty of competitors hoping to wrest a job the way he did last year.

Last year, Kahnle had to make the team and stick all season, or else be waived and then offered back to the Yankees, his original organization. Considering the Yankees had left Kahnle unprotected in the first place, his future would've been uncertain. But Kahnle secured his spot with the Rockies by holding opponents to one run and striking out nine in 11 2/3 innings last spring, and then turned in a solid regular season, going 2-1 with a 4.19 ERA and 63 strikeouts (but 31 walks) in 68 2/3 innings.

Kahnle, 25, pops his fastball at a 94-mph average and augments that with a power changeup. But with Minor League options and plenty of competitors, Kahnle feels no less desire to have another big spring.

"I'm sure it gave me a little advantage," Kahnle said. "But this year is the same thing. I'm going to treat it the same as last year. Nothing is given. I have to go into this spring the same way I prepared for the last one."

Kahnle held opponents to a .206 batting average, but had less success in high-leverage situations, yielding a .257 average in 17 games in high-leverage situations, including .275 in the eighth inning.

But some of that was to be expected of Kahnle, who hadn't pitched above Double-A with the Yankees. Rockies manager Walt Weiss stuck with a plan to try and keep Kahnle out of tight situations. A notable exception was Kahnle's Major League debut last April 3 at Miami, when he entered with runners at second and third in the sixth inning. He struck out Reed Johnson and forced an inning-ending grounder from Christian Yelich.

Kahnle's first Major League K

It was the first year in a development process that has to continue for Kahnle to become a late-innings option. Kahnle is working on a slider, and needs to learn to complete his knowledge base. He also spent time on the 15-day disabled list during the second half of August because of right shoulder inflammation, an indication he needed to better monitor his between-outings routine.

"Some things we're trying to tweak -- controlling the running game and some of the finer points of the game," Weiss said. "But as far as the physical ability, he had a tremendous year for us. We threw a lot at him."

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.