Pint honing craft with offseason work

Rockies' first-round pick learns from more experienced players in Arizona

Pint honing craft with offseason work

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Riley Pint doesn't miss the carefree days at all. Of course, those old days were just last year for Pint, 19, who the Rockies selected with fourth-overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft in June out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan.

Pint, who is ranked No. 3 among Colorado prospects, went 1-5 with a 5.35 ERA in 11 welcome-to-pro-ball starts at Rookie-level Grand Junction. The learning continued in instructional ball in October. Now, Pint is working out with older prospects and a good handful of Major Leaguers at the Rockies' complex at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

"This time last year, I was thinking of Thanksgiving and Christmas break ... the first basketball game coming up in December ... that's about it," Pint said. "But this is pretty surreal, honestly. You look up to some of these guys like Jon Gray and it's kind of mind-blowing. You watch these guys pitch in the Majors, and now you're working out next to them."

But Pint, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and looks as if he's beginning to add muscle, is not just marveling at his surroundings.

Riley Pint joins the booth

"I'm taken by just how intense these guys are -- and it's November," Pint said. "This is how you get better in the offseason. It's really kind of opened my eyes to see how hard these guys go this early. It just makes me want to do exactly what they're doing.

"They're at that place already. To get there, you've got to do what these guys are doing. I'm lucky to be out here right now. But you've got to work as hard as these guys do."

The Rockies believe however long Pint takes is worth the wait. He brings a fastball clocked at greater than 100 mph, plus an advanced pitch mix -- changeup, curveball and knuckle-curve.

Pint on his velocity

Pint never threw more than five innings in a game at Grand Junction. He struck out 36 in 37 innings pitched, but he also walked 23 and gave up 43 hits. It was all in the name of learning.

"His biggest areas of growth were developing a day-to-day routine in all aspects of being a starting pitcher in professional baseball," said Ryan Kibler, Grand Junction's pitching coach. "There was also the importance of locating the fastball in the strike zone, especially down, and throwing a secondary pitch for a strike to keep hitters from keying off his fastball."

The Rockies used instructional ball as a chance to help Pint become more comfortable from the stretch. Opponents posted a .357 batting average with runners on base, which was a situation Pint had rarely faced as a dominant high school pitcher.

The lessons -- even the hard ones -- left Pint with the only impression that's important: he has more than enough ability.

"If I executed my pitches, I felt I was going to get people out," Pint said. "But some games, I just was leaving balls up or I wasn't finishing my curveball. Sometimes it all felt good. But it depended on if I was executing the pitch.

"At the beginning of the year, the game was speeding up, but later as I got more innings it kind of slowed down. When runners got on base, I knew what to do. I wasn't rushing."

Pint is embracing the pro lifestyle by spending almost all of his time in Scottsdale. His roommates are righty Mike Nikorak, a first-round pick in 2015 who immediately befriended Pint to pass on what he could from his previous year of pro ball, and Colton Welker, a third baseman from Parkland, Fla., who hit .329 with five homers in 51 games at Grand Junction. Nikorak's ability to cook -- and their attention to the Rockies' emphasis on a solid eating plan -- is keeping them healthy.

The trio of prospects seem to be ahead of their years, but Pint admitted a Thanksgiving feast might be beyond their experience level.

"We might have to go to the grocery store and have them cook it for us," Pint said. "I don't know if we're that skilled."

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