Estevez continues Cactus League tear

Estevez continues Cactus League tear

MESA, Ariz. -- After Rockies righty relief prospect Carlos Estevez struck out two in his inning of Friday's 9-4 loss to the Athletics -- on the heels of a three-strikeout performance in his previous Cactus League outing -- it's hard to believe he once was considered too soft of a thrower.

Estevez, 23, who fanned 68 in 55 2/3 combined relief innings at Class A Advanced Modesto and Double-A New Britain last year and had a solid Arizona Fall League performance, was passed over at 16, the age when most players from the Dominican Republic sign pro contracts.

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"My mechanics were really bad," Estevez said. "I could throw a lot of strikes. My pitches were fine. But I couldn't throw hard. You find kids 16 throwing 93, 92. I was, tops, sometimes 88, 86, 87."

By the time the Rockies signed Estevez at the ripe age of 18, he was growing into his frame -- currently 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds -- and developing a fastball that is hitting 97 mph. He also was maturing in ways he could not have been had he entered a team's complex at 16.

Estevez played for a Dominican team in the RBI World Series in Jupiter and West Palm Beach, Fla., and was recruited to a private high school in Beckley, W.Va., Mountain State Academy, for his junior year of high school. Already fluent enough in English, Estevez had dreams of signing with the University of Virginia and majoring in civil engineering.

But Mountain State Academy folded at the end of his junior year. Estevez returned to Santo Domingo, where the Rockies discovered him. Manager Walt Weiss is happy for Estevez's power and pitch mix. One of his strikeouts Friday was on a biting slider.

"Power arm with very good secondary stuff, too. He's got a great changeup," Weiss said. "There's some deception there, too, with his delivery. It's a little funky. He's looked good so far."

Worth noting

• Another bright performance on a rough day for pitching came from lefty Harrison Musgrave, who fanned two while allowing one hit in two scoreless innings. Musgrave faced the top of the order in the fourth and fanned leadoff man Coco Crisp on a breaking ball that drew a confused swing.

"He's got a good feel for pitching," Weiss said. "That's been the report on him. He's very calm, composed, and he executes pitches."

• Lefty Chris Rusin, scratched from Friday's start because of left middle finger inflammation, is not out of sight, out of mind for the Rockies. Rusin is out of options and could be squeezed out of the rotation. But he threw two complete games, including a shutout, at Coors Field during an up-and-down 2015 season in which he went 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA in 24 games, 22 starts.

"He did do well last year, and that goes a long way for us -- the people evaluating him," said Weiss, who added that Rusin could be a candidate for the bullpen if he's not the rotation.

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