Estevez enjoys hitting triple digits

Rookie still trying to harness command of his fastball

Estevez enjoys hitting triple digits

DENVER -- Carlos Estevez's best way to describe what it's like to throw 100 mph -- something he has done 33 times season -- involves fully extending his right arm, with a wide grin and wide-open eyes looking at the tips of his long fingers.

"It's just when you see it, when you throw out in front and the ball takes off," Estevez said. "Sometimes you know when you throw it. But sometimes you don't even notice ... then you see the ball come out."

In a snarky social media world -- heck, even in the days when folks wrote letters and stamped them -- some folks are breaking speed records with zingers. Estevez has struggled recently, with 10 runs and 11 hits in five innings over his last seven appearances. The evening that Estevez made his attempt to explain the unexplainable, he gave up three ninth-inning runs to the Rangers at Coors Field in a blown save that led the Rockies to move Adam Ottavino into the closer role. Estevez gets it.

And Estevez, 23, a rookie who has 11 saves and has the makings of a successful back-end reliever once he finds the answers to his struggles, also brings a refreshing trait for someone with such rare talent -- humility.

In the visiting clubhouse in Arlington a couple days after the spectacularly blown save, Estevez took one hour and 27 minutes to fire up his iPad and watch "Fastball," a documentary by Jonathan Hock that was narrated by Kevin Costner, which premiered at the start of the season. The film brought to life the story of the intriguing pitch, and chronicled the stories of the speediest practitioners. Pitchers who live only on black-and-white film, like Walter Johnson and Bob Feller; modern Hall of Famers such as Nolan Ryan and Bob Gibson; and even little-chronicled hard-throwing Minors legends such as Steve Dalkowski caught Estevez's imagination.

"I'd heard of all of them, but I didn't know they threw that hard," Estevez said, beaming. "Usually you just go, 'Oh, back in the day they didn't throw that hard.' But when you call a guy 'The Big Train,' he's going to be throwing gas.

"Walter Johnson, [Estevez pantomimed the sweeping sidearm motion] ... How do you get to throw hard from around there? Then Bob Gibson, he was a mean man. He dominated the World Series with 17 K's. I knew the record was 17, but I didn't know who it was. That's impressive -- real impressive."

Estevez earns the save

Estevez called Ryan "honestly, the best," and marveled at the scientists -- who early in the film seemed out of place but became stars as the documentary continued -- who calculated his best fastball at 108.5 mph. Estevez understood the story of Dalkowski, who seemed headed to the Majors with the Orioles in the mid 1960s, only to see the dream ended by a Spring Training injury while fielding a ground ball.

"It was a shame, just sad," Estevez said.

When the Rockies meet the Cubs on Friday to start a three-game series, Estevez will see up-close Cubs lefty Aroldis Chapman, who has been clocked at 105 mph.

It's great to be in the 100-mph club, Estevez said, but responsibility comes with it.

"I know how I can describe it," Estevez said. "When I go walking around and they go, 'Hey, see this guy? He throws 100.' It's just crazy. It's awesome. I have seen guys work really hard, too, and they never get to that. I've been working hard my entire life and I get to throw 100, but not everyone is able to. And I think it's just a gift from God.

Estevez saves the game

"In the movie, all of them said it was a real gift, a gift from God. All of them said that on camera. They said the same thing. Even Chapman in Spanish, he said the same thing. It's awesome. That was a really good movie. I'm going to watch it again."

Estevez said the first time he truly knew he could hit triple digits was on the last pitch of a game last year for Double-A New Britain, at Bowie.

"The radar board was right in front of me, like on top of the plate," Estevez said. "Against a lefty, two-strike, no-ball pitch. He swung and broke his bat, fly ball to third."

Estevez tries to reach triple digits, like on two pitches to the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt (both swinging strikes at 100.14 mph and 100.69 mph), on days he has confidence in his control. Estevez knows that when he can control his fastball, which will allow his slider and changeup to come into play, he borders on unhittable.

On the 33 100-mph-plus pitches, Estevez has accumulated eight outs, 12 foul balls, four swings-and-misses and eight balls. The only hit was a ground-ball single by the Dodgers' Trayce Thompson on June 8. Only once, that fateful game against the Rangers on Aug. 8, did Estevez hit 100 mph and blow a save.

"Every once in a while we struggle, but after we get it back, it's done. Lights out," Estevez said. "Just go pound the zone with the fastball. They know it's a fastball coming, and they're still going to swing. But they're going to miss it, or hit a popup or a ground ball. It's awesome."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. 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.