Estevez hopes experience smooths 2nd year in bigs

Rockies reliever spent offseason working on pitching mechanics

Estevez hopes experience smooths 2nd year in bigs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies righty reliever Carlos Estevez spent last year being educated, literally at 100 mph.

Estevez's triple-digits fastball was such an asset that, when injuries hit veteran relievers Jason Motte and Jake McGee, the Rockies had him closing games. But because he was barely a calendar year out of Class A, inexperience was often his toughest opponent.

Estevez, 24, finished 3-7 with a 5.24 ERA in 63 games and was 11-for-18 on save chances.

"Yeah, it was a lot," Estevez said. "Which is good, because now I know a lot of stuff that I didn't know before."

From June 11, when he took over as closer when McGee suffered a left knee injury, to Aug. 4 -- a period that saw the Rockies climb into National League Wild Card contention -- Estevez converted 11 of 12 save opportunities and held opponents to a .171 batting average.

But on Aug. 5 and Aug. 8, he coughed up a combined seven runs, five hits and three walks in two-thirds of an inning while blowing saves against the Marlins and the Rangers and was replaced as closer by Adam Ottavino, who had returned from missing more than a year with an elbow injury. In his final 21 appearances, Estevez had a 9.19 ERA, a .348 average against and 11 walks in 15 2/3 innings.

Black on Estevez moving forward

Estevez had the frustrating experience of knowing what was wrong but not being able to correct it, even with pointers from pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes. As Estevez pushed toward the plate, his glove and left elbow were pulling toward first base. Ideally, that motion is downward, which keeps everything in line with the plate.

"I was messing up with my front side, and they tried to change it a few times during the season," Estevez said. "It's kind of hard to do it in season. You get to practice it, what, 30 minutes in practice and then taking it right to the game? In some games I gave flashes like I was doing it better but you forget about it. You're just thinking about competition."

Estevez said he found the proper motion during offseason work at the Rockies' complex at Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. The hope is it's second nature, and having the big league jitters behind him will help him be able to correct when he does slip into bad habits.

Estevez notches the save

Of Estevez's 1,025 pitches last season, 40 reached 100 mph, according to Statcast™ -- and just nine of those were put in play, one for a hit. Control in his motion unlocks power.

"He's worked on those things with Darren and Steve and will continue to work on them, and from what I can gather as far as his mechanics he's confident where he is right now," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "He's a big guy -- tall, big, physical pitcher. And a lot of times for those guys who have mechanical issues, when you have longer levers it's tougher to get on track."

Estevez will need to be ready. The additions of Greg Holland, the likely closer, and Mike Dunn, a veteran late-innings lefty, push Estevez earlier in the game. But there is plenty of competition for his job, and Estevez has Minor League options. But Estevez has confidence and attacks this year with greater knowledge than he did last.

"I just think that we're going to be really good," Estevez said. "And whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do it."

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.