SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kyle Freeland's first Arizona Fall League start was one he'd like to forget. He couldn't get out of the first inning against the Scottsdale Scorpions, giving up two homers and six runs while recording just two outs on Oct. 14.
Since then, however, the Rockies left-hander has been the most effective starting pitcher in the AFL. That continued Friday afternoon when Freeland, the Rockies' Rockies No. 9 prospect, pitched the Salt River Rafters to a 5-3 victory over the Surprise Saguaros. He allowed just one run and five baserunners in 5 2/3 innings, and he has gone 3-0 with a 0.92 ERA since his rough introduction to the Fall League.
The No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Freeland relied primarily on his fastball against the Saguaros. Fifty-five of his 73 pitches were heaters, as he worked mostly at 92-94 mph and touched 95 twice. He consistently pounded the bottom of the strike zone, with his only costly mistake a 91-mph fastball that he left up more than he wanted that Tyler Austin (Yankees) pounced on for a solo homer in the second inning.
"My two-seamer was working right out of the gate with late movement down in the zone," Freeland said. "So we worked off that mainly. I threw a few sliders and curveballs, but most of my offspeed pitches were changeups."
Freeland's 2015 season didn't begin until late July because he came down with a tired shoulder in Spring Training and had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow in April. Adding some much-needed innings is a priority for him in the AFL, as is improving his changeup. He altered his grip in high Class A Advanced Modesto this summer, going to more of a circle changeup with most of the pressure coming from his pinkie and ring finger.
"My main focus is developing the changeup more and more," Freeland said. "I want to get to the point where I throw it with as much trust as my fastball and slider. It feels much better coming out of my hand. I feel confident throwing it to hitters in any count."
Salt River scored all the runs it would need in the top of the first inning when it tallied four against Surprise right-hander Luke Weaver (Cardinals). A 2014 first-round pick who had allowed a total of just four runs in his first five Fall League appearances, Weaver surrendered a solo homer to center fielder Daniel Palka (Twins) and a three-run shot to catcher Spencer Kieboom (Nationals).
The win enabled the Rafters (14-11) to pull within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Scottsdale Scorpions in the AFL's East Division. The Saguaros (15-10) maintained their 3 1/2-game lead in the West over the Glendale Desert Dogs, who also lost Friday afternoon.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.