Rockies call up Gurka, adding lefty to bullpen

Southpaw impressed at Triple-A level; Kahnle sent down

Rockies call up Gurka, adding lefty to bullpen

PITTSBURGH -- Left-handed pitcher Jason Gurka, selected to the Majors by the Rockies on Friday, saw his career stagnate in the Orioles system -- a two-year stay at high Class A, the better part of three years at Double-A. But he never looked at it that way.

"To be honest, I was happy I was playing a game for a job," said Gurka, a 15th-round Orioles pick in 2008 out of Angelina College (Texas). "I loved every day of it. I never looked up. I knew opportunity would happen, and I got one with the Rockies.

Gurka, 27, pitched in the Orioles system through 2014, but his only Triple-A action was two spot starts last season. This year, he signed with the Rockies and went 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 21 games, including one start, at Triple-A Albuquerque, after going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA at Double-A New Britain.

The Rockies informed him Wednesday that he would be called up to replace strike-zone challenged righty Tommy Kahnle, who was optioned to Albuquerque.

Gurka has a simple style, based on staying low in the strike zone with his fastball, curve and changeup. Before the Rockies called up Gurka, the highly taxed Christian Friedrich -- 55 appearances this season, after no more than 16 appearances in his previous two Major League seasons -- was the only lefty in the bullpen.

"There was a void," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "So we went and brought Gurka, who has performed very well. He's a guy that matches up well against left-handers."

Kahnle (0-1, 4.86 ERA in 36 games) had a brief trial as closer when John Axford struggled, but has issued at least one walk in 10 of his last 14 appearances. In his last game, at Atlanta, he walked four in two-thirds of an inning but managed not to be scored upon because of a tremendous defensive pay from third baseman Nolan Arenado and a rally-subduing strikeout of Freddie Freeman by Friedrich.

"His fastball command has gotten away from him," Weiss said. "He's relied heavily on the changeup. He needs to pitch with his fastball, too. That's the biggest reason we sent him down."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.