Move to 'pen has been the difference for Friedrich

Move to 'pen has been the difference for Friedrich

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Lefty Christian Friedrich is rounding into the form the Rockies unlocked last season, when they moved him to the bullpen.

Friedrich gave up his first run of the spring during a two-inning stint in the Rockies' 5-1 victory over the Giants on Wednesday. But he hit his stride with his slider -- the pitch that was instrumental in his fashioning a 1.64 ERA in 13 relief appearances. He had a 9.45 ERA in his three starts before the Rockies made the conversion.

"I saw a real good slider, the slider we saw last September -- the one that disappears, especially to left-handed hitters," manager Walt Weiss said. "He's in a good place. Maybe the velocity is not quite what it was when we saw him in September. It's ticking up. But the slider is a swing-and-miss pitch."

Friedrich has pitched around six hits and two walks in six innings this spring. One of his keys will be harnessing his fastball. When he began pitching out of the bullpen, his velocity increased. Now he has to spot the pitch properly.

"The hard thing that every pitcher does when they feel they've got the stuff is, they want to show everybody they've got the stuff," Friedrich said. "I've had games where I was teetering on the edge of, 'I feel really good tonight; let's see what comes out,' then there's a lack of execution.

"As a starter, some days the two-seamer was 87, 88 [mph]. Now it's coming out harder, 90 [or] 91."

Friedrich has changed his grip on the sinker slightly, a change that has given him a slightly more consistent break. Weiss said that Friedrich pitches with enough power to give him some margin for error.

Friedrich, the Rockies' top pick in 2008 (25th overall) out of Eastern Kentucky, is out of Minor League options, which means he likely would have had to pitch himself out of a job to not be on the 25-man roster. He's also the type other teams scout heavily. The Rockies, who have given no indication that they're seeking a trade, would be dealing from a position of strength if another club came calling. The projected bullpen has three lefties -- Rex Brothers and Boone Logan in addition to Friedrich.

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.