Hoffman takes advantage of surprise start

Rookie right-hander strikes out seven Brewers over five strong innings

Hoffman takes advantage of surprise start

DENVER -- Jeff Hoffman wouldn't accept you're in the bullpen for an answer. Hoffman responded to an unexpected starting chance with five innings and seven strikeouts in the Rockies' 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Brewers on Saturday night.

The right-handed Hoffman had struggled through his first five Major League starts after his promotion from Triple-A Albuquerque. So manager Walt Weiss informed him he would finish the year in long relief.

But Hoffman believed he'd receive another chance. He thought it would come when the Rockies shut down Jorge De La Rosa nearly two weeks ago. Instead, he had two appearances in long relief with solid results.

"As soon as they took me out of the rotation, I told them that I wanted De La Rosa's next start," Hoffman said. "It's just my competitive nature. Walt actually told me no the first time.

"Yesterday they surprised me. But when they called me in, I knew something was going on. Walt told me, 'You're going to get that start you wanted.'"

On Saturday, Hoffman demonstrated the talent that led the Blue Jays to select him ninth overall out of East Carolina in 2014, and the Rockies to insist on him being included when they traded shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto last July.

Hoffman demonstrated a fastball that topped out at 96.4 mph, with a curveball, a changeup and a slider he has added this year. This pitch mix had the Rockies considering taking him eighth overall in '14 even though he had undergone Tommy John surgery that May. Instead the Rockies took University of Evansville lefty and Denver native Kyle Freeland. Now the Rockies have both as part of impressive high-end young pitching talent.

Hoffman gave up one run in a fifth inning that was helped along by shortstop Cristhian Adames' throwing error, putting runners at second and third with no outs, before Martin Maldonado's RBI single -- the last of two hits off him. But the inning led to Hoffman's finest moment of his brief big league trial.

After striking out Scooter Gennett and Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta and walking Jonathan Villar intentionally, Hoffman struck out right fielder Domingo Santana. His final pitch was a 96.2-mph fastball.

Because he had not started since Sept. 14, Hoffman was limited to five innings and his 74 pitches were below the prescribed limit. After throwing 104 innings last year at the Class A and Double-A levels while finishing his comeback, Hoffman totaled 150 innings between Triple-A (6-9, 4.02 ERA) and the Majors (0-4, 4.88).

And his last impression -- screaming, pumping his fist -- makes all those numbers look better.

"The crowd there kind of got going for me after I got strike two," Hoffman said. "It did cross my mind: This is the last time I'm going to be pitching this year, so I got to empty the tank right here. I executed that pitch."

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.