Friedrich back to form, bidding for roster spot

Friedrich back to form, bidding for roster spot

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Christian Friedrich just might have a little greater opportunity to make the Rockies' Opening Day roster than he originally thought. But he also has to make sure he is patient.

Friedrich, 26, debuted with the Rockies in 2012 (5-8, 6.17 ERA in 16 starts) and had his moments before being shut down after sustaining a stress fracture of the lower back in July. He went to Spring Training last year hoping to make the team, but the back didn't heal properly and Friedrich was limited to four Triple-A outings -- and four startups and shutdowns of his throwing program.

After a lengthy recovery and rehab, Friedrich insists he is ready. He came to camp as one of the pitchers trying to wrest the fifth spot from Juan Nicasio. Depending on how long Jhoulys Chacin is down with a right shoulder strain and inflammation, another spot could be open as well.

The concern, however, is the fact Friedrich essentially lost a year of pitching. The Rockies are letting him compete, but the lost year is being taken into account.

"I feel everything's full speed ahead," Friedrich said. "I haven't run into any issues and problems.

"It's still open and based on whatever they think is best. They base it off how I react to everything. But as far as I know, there shouldn't be any issues."

Friedrich vows to follow the Rockies staff's advice that "if you feel something and need to back off for a day, remember you're not trying to just make a team right now -- you're trying to get a career going, have a routine to have a full and healthy season instead of two weeks on, two weeks off."

Friedrich doesn't want to experience last year again. The fracture healed, but rebuilding the muscles of the back took longer than Friedrich expected.

"I don't think we built up enough strength around the area, and even my normal strength wasn't good enough to support it," Friedrich said. "Now, I feel like I had that strength.

"But I had to go through four months of remedial exercises -- the tedious ones. The pelvic tilt, the leg lift -- the ones where you lift one leg and you touch stuff and it's working all core, hips, flexibility and strengthening everything around the knee. They were making sure everything was good from posture, the way I sat, everything."

It was as if he had to pass charm school before returning to the mound.

"They would ask, 'How often do you sit down?'" he said. "We sit around a lot, at the field and when we come home to relax. 'Well, how do you sit?' Suddenly, I go from lounging in chairs to making sure my chest is up. All that pressure goes to the lower back. When I drive in the car, sometimes I've got the 'Costanza wallet,' so I've got to take it out and take pressure off. I had reminders, like having people poke me in the stomach to make sure I was contracting my core, and remembering to breathe while flexing my core.

"When I started lifting and getting together with a trainer in Chicago and started pushing sleds, my attitude and my health, everything … I felt like a new man."

Friedrich has said he felt like himself when he started throwing again in November.

"I played catch with Rob [Scahill, a Rockies bullpen hopeful], and he said, 'I haven't seen you like that since 2012.'" Friedrich said.

Friedrich pitched at a high of 240 pounds in 2011. He reported to camp at 205. Part of the weight loss was because of a bout with food poisoning and he'd prefer pitching around 220. At any rate, he is at fighting-for-a-job weight.

"It's neat to come back and have a chance," Friedrich said. "Last year, I thought I had a chance to make the team but my health was a crapshoot. At least I feel if I give them a good show, whether I make it or not, they know I'm back and I'm able to help the team."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.