Rockies spring training report: Austin Gomber makes strides as starter

Austin Gomber is a starting pitcher again and he plans to make the most of his regained role.

The Rockies’ left-hander, the centerpiece of the Nolan Arenado trade with St. Louis before the 2021 season, was relegated to the bullpen last year in part because of his ineffectiveness as a starter. Colorado manager Bud Black also wanted a lefty reliever when Lucas Gilbreath was injured.

“He thinks he’s a starter and I don’t disagree with him at all,” Black told reporters Thursday morning at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Thursday afternoon, in Colorado’s 7-1 loss to the Padres, Gomber surrendered two earned runs on seven hits over four innings while striking out two and walking one.

That’s not a great line, but both Black and Gomber said that Gomber’s stuff was good. Gomber was pleased with how he threw his curveball, a pitch that’s been a little off-kilter this spring as he tweaks his delivery.

“I felt like the breaking ball really came around (today,” he told reporters. “I was able to throw a handful of competitive ones and definitely the best ones I’ve thrown all spring. I just need to clean it up a little bit.”

Gomber’s 5.40 Cactus League ERA is not pretty, but after giving up four earned runs through two-thirds of an inning in his first start, he’s allowed just three runs through 11 innings across his last three outings.

Injury updates: Right fielder Kris Bryant was back in the lineup after missing two games with a stiff lower back. He had an RBI single in the first inning. He said he was not concerned when his back tightened up, even though he missed considerable time last year with lower back pain.

“Every single person here has back stiffness … it’s part of baseball,” Bryant told reporters. “Last year it was more like playing through back stiffness and back problems and (I just made it) worse and worse. You do speak up (in spring training) because there is no need to push through it in spring.”

Outfielder Randal Grichuk (bilateral sports hernia surgery) has begun taking batting practice on the field and might be ready for games as early as next week. Right-handed reliever Jake Bird (left oblique strain) has begun throwing bullpens and Black said there is a chance Bird might be ready for the season-opener on March 30 at San Diego.

Padres 7, Rockies 1
Thursday at Salt River Fields

On the mound: Right-hander Pierce Johnson, expected to be a key reliever late in games, pitched a scoreless inning and has allowed just two baserunners through his last three outings.

At the plate: Centerfielder Yonathan Daza went 1-for-2 with one walk and one run scored. Daza’s hit safely in each of his last four games, hitting 6-for-12 over that span.

Up next: Diamondbacks at Rockies, 1:10 p.m. Friday (2:10 p.m. MDT)

Rockies probable pitchers: RHP Jose Urena, LHP Brad Hand, RHP Justin Lawrence, LHP Ty Blach, RHP Phillips Valdez.

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