With a little help, Hoffman earns first victory

Rookie strikes out eight over 5 1/3 innings vs. Dodgers

With a little help, Hoffman earns first victory

DENVER -- The Rockies valued Jeff Hoffman's right arm so much they traded star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays for him. On Thursday night, Hoffman's career-high eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of a 10-7 win over the Dodgers at Coors Field demonstrated that his knowledge is catching up to his tools.

Hoffman, who earned his first career win in his first Major League start this season, has dilligent teachers. One, veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan, helped with preparation. Another, Chad Bettis -- a Rockies right-hander who is undergoing treatment for testicular cancer and is hoping to begin a baseball comeback soon -- will analyze Hoffman at some point.

All Bettis had Thursday for Hoffman was pride.

"He texted me after I came out of the game," said Hoffman, who came up from Triple-A Albuquerque for a relief appearance Tuesday and was pushed into Thursday's start because of Tyler Anderson's sore left knee.

"He said, 'Really, really good.' He was really excited to see me back here."

The Jays had drafted Hoffman ninth overall in 2014 -- the pick after the Rockies took current rookie lefty sensation Kyle Freeland -- even though he had missed much of his season at East Carolina University because of Tommy John surgery.

The Rockies traded for him in July 2015, and had him finish last season in the Majors. But in those eight appearances (six starts), and even in Spring Training this year, Hoffman showed he didn't know himself well enough to be a factor in the Rockies' rotation.

But Thursday was different.

Hoffman used his fastball in all parts of the zone. He worked high to Dodgers power-hitting prospect Cody Bellinger for two strikeouts and Joc Pederson for one strikeout without letting them extend their arms -- which can result in hard-hit balls. He set up an outside-corner fastball to Justin Turner in the first inning, later caught Turner looking in at a called third strike and then fanned him on a bouncing curveball in the sixth.

"He's got good stuff and he's really quick to home out of the stretch, so it makes it hard for the hitter to load, so the ball gets on your pretty fast," Bellinger said.

Hanigan, a veteran who signed with the Rockies late in Spring Training and began the year at Albuquerque, showed Hoffman how to "take bits and pieces of what you're good at and what they're not good at, and go with that -- not so much just pitch to what they're not good at. My stuff is good enough to beat a lot of guys,:" Hoffman said.

During Spring Training, what Hoffman might have felt during games didn't match what the video showed closely enough for an accurate self-evaluation. Bettis emphasized proper study.

"When we were together in Spring Training," Hoffman said. "He'd say, 'Look at this. I bet you weren't looking at this before, but this is a big tell for what the hitter is looking for next.' It's awesome."

Thursday's plan was to establish a four-seam fastball up and a two-seamer down, and breaking pitches, and use the changeup against left-handed hitters. He didn't get to the last part.

"That was kind of a good thing, because we didn't really need it," Hoffman said.

Scott Van Slyke's fifth-inning homer and two runs on two hits in the sixth put up runs, but manager Bud Black left pleased overall.

"We talked so much in the spring about [how] starting pitchers' success is based on locating the fastball," Black said. "Jeff continues to work on that. That's going to be a big part of his development moving forward.

"Tonight, he did a nice job."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.