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Banter From The Bench: Gavin Hollowell is a rare breed of Rockies' relief pitcher

Patrick Lyons Avatar
December 1, 2022

When Gavin Hollowell made the jump from Double-A to the big leagues, he became the first to skip Triple-A for the Colorado Rockies since Ryan Feltner just a year prior. Before that, one would have to go back to Chad Bettis in 2013.

As far as relief pitchers are concerned, it’s an ever more rare occurrence.

Hollowell also became the first pitcher to debut from the Rockies’ 2019 MLB Draft and only the third pitcher to reach the Majors out of St. John’s University from the last decade of drafts behind only the Minnesota Twins’ Cody Stashak and former Rockie Matt Carasiti.

His height is another element that makes him stand out, literally and figuratively. At 6’7”, just five players in Colorado’s 30-year history have ever been taller than the 25-year-old right-hander.

To say Hollowell is a unique being would be an understatement when taking into consideration everything on the back of his baseball card and Wikipedia page so far.

During his three seasons with Colorado’s affiliates, he’s never had an ERA above 3.14 and his 0.953 WHIP (base runners per inning, basically) has been remarkably low, especially for a minor leaguer. (To give an idea of how impressive a sub-1.000 WHIP is in the modern era, keep in mind that Jacob deGrom’s career 0.998 WHIP is the lowest of any active pitcher.)

Promoted for the final three weeks of the season, Hollowell made six appearances and posted a zero in half those outings. He also went more than an inning on three separate occasions.

Oct 5, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Gavin Hollowell (64) pitches in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

His debut came in a pressure-packed situation following a blown save by Justin Lawrence in the ninth to the San Francisco Giants. Hollowell stepped onto the Coors Field mound with a runner on second base to start the top of the 10th inning.

After striking out the first two hitters he ever faced in the Show, he ultimately made two bad pitches, as manager Bud Black would say. A slider outside the zone on a full-count put a runner on first, and a full-count sinker to Thairo Estrada caught too much plate and was hammered for a game-deciding three-run homer.

The peripherals look much better than the actual in-game results for Hollowell. Though the fastball sits at 93 mph (slightly below league average), his fastball spin and extension are elite according to Baseball Savant. He also gave up just one barrel in the 20 hit off him through 7.0 innings pitched. (At 5.0% barrels per batted ball exits, Hollowell would have sat 51st out of 358 pitchers who qualified.)

It was a small sample size for a tall drink of water that should whet the appetite of Rockies’ fan for years to come.

Oct 1, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Gavin Hollowell (64) throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Lyons: The first time I got a chance to see you pitch was earlier this season in Spring Training. And not on a back field. The guys were doing live BP and I heard your name get called and thought, “Well, this young man must have a bright future ahead of him.” What were your thoughts when you were told you’d be throwing to the big leaguers?

Gavin Hollowell: I didn’t really think about it too much. It was another day on the bump, just a little bigger audience. But I was really excited.

Lyons: Was that a moment of realization that you were on the right path or that the coaches and front office really had faith in how your development had been coming along?

Hollowell: Yeah, for sure. Definitely knowing they believe in me means a lot and I can go out there and just pitch with confidence.

Lyons: You got to hang out in Wrigley Field for a game before making your debut at home? What were your thoughts of Coors Field and the clubhouse environment, in general?

Hollowell: All the guys have been fantastic. It’s my first time in Denver. I had never seen Coors Field. So it’s been an absolute blast of an experience. I loved every second of it.

Lyons: What was the debut like for you? I know a lot of players actually feel more nervous warming up in the bullpen than when they’re on the mound. 

Hollowell: There were some butterflies out there. I was pretty confident in myself. The heart rate was going in the beginning for sure. And then I got out there, it was tunnel vision with (Elias) Díaz. Then it was just another day on the mound

Oct 1, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Gavin Hollowell (64) throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Lyons: The Majors are one thing, but do the butterflies come with each level when you get promoted throughout the minors, too?

Hollowell: For sure. In Hartford, beautiful stadium there, I got butterflies going out there. It’s just all the fans and just hearing everybody. Pitching (at Coors Field) was like pitching at Hartford with a couple extra decks and just some more fans out there. But it was really good.

Lyons: PitchCom didn’t get a lot of usage throughout the minors this season. Did you get to experience it at all this year?

Hollowell: I actually used it for the first time in my debut. I really enjoyed that. My eyes are good, but every once in a while shadows will get down there and you kind of see different things. PitchCom seemed loud at first, but after I got used to it, it was fine.

Lyons: Lots of new rules coming up in 2023, many of which you got a chance to experience already. Do you feel like you have an advantage going to Spring Training knowing how the pitch clock already works and knowing that you’re not going to need that same adjustment period that maybe some of the other players may have?

Hollowell: I think so. You kind of learn to use the pitch clock as a weapon where I can sit there and hold the ball and watch the time clock go down in my peripheral vision. And when those batters start to get a little lax, I can just attack them with everything in there. They’re gonna be a little off guard, I think.

Lyons: Did you notice if any of the hitters played with the clock by trying to eat up their eight seconds just to kind of run your clock down?

Hollowell: I didn’t think so. I thought the pitchers had more of an advantage than the hitters because they have to be in there and they have to be ready. And I can let it go all the way down to zero if I want to and then pitch. So I think pitchers definitely have an advantage.


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