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Carlos Estevez took Rockies Closer role with abundant mental toughness

Drew Creasman Avatar
June 23, 2016


DENVER – For Carlos Estevez, becoming the Colorado Rockies Closer has been a long-time goal, but not one he expected to achieve in the first two months of his MLB career.

He told BSN Denver that it has been a “blessing” to be where he is now, and even notes that his opportunity only arose after injuries to other bullpen pieces, most notably the 15-day DL-stint Jake McGee is currently on, leaving a hole at the backend. Well, not for very long. Injuries may have opened the door, but someone had to walk through it.

Just prior to McGee’s injury and Estevez’s subsequent promotion, the rookie flamethrower proved his worth in a dominant outing against the big bad Los Angeles Dodgers lineup. He struck out the side, on the road, against the heart of the order one day after he had suffered a loss, giving up a walk-off home run to Trayce Thompson.

“I went out saying ‘OK, what happened, happened.’ I wanted the ball. I wanted to get out there again and prove that [the previous day’s struggles] were gone. That’s done. I just wanted to get out there and get my team three outs. That’s all I wanted,” Estevez said.

This mentality is exactly what gave the Rockies brass confidence that Estevez – despite his lack of MLB experience – could step into the vital Closer role without missing a beat. A short memory is a requirement for any baseball player, double for late-inning relievers, and Estevez has developed a persona that allows him to do things like striking out the side while throwing fastballs for 20 of 21 pitches in the inning.

“I threw a change-up to Adrian Gonzalez with one ball and two strikes,” Estevez corrected me when I thought he threw 21 consecutive fastballs. But the point still stood that he showed the utmost confidence in the ‘ole number one.

Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports

“I saw they were swinging through the fastball,” he says. “I mean, here at this level, you just gotta get outs. Not work on your pitches, you gotta get outs. So they were missing the fastball and I just kept throwing it.”

It wasn’t a perfect inning, however, as Thompson grounded a seeing-eye single on Estevez’s hardest-thrown pitch of the inning, a fastball that touched 100 mph. But in his response to that, Estevez showed again why he just makes so much sense in a late inning role. He doesn’t dwell. I’m not sure he even has that emotion anywhere in his body.

“OK, he got a single, that’s fine. Next time I’ll get him. I’ll try my best 100 percent to get him, but I didn’t care about the single; ‘let me get the last out,’ that was my thinking right there.”

Now, getting the last out is his entire job description and he is relishing it.

Since that game in LA, and being named the closer the following series against San Diego, Estevez has pitched seven innings over seven games without allowing a run. During that stretch, he has struck out eight batters while walking only two and has surrendered just four hits.

Talking with Estevez is an exercise in fun. He is engaging, funny, and full of positive vibes that he spreads indiscriminately across the clubhouse. But the second he steps on the mound, he becomes a different person. The “Wild Thing” persona is a little misleading — his command is about average — and mostly the result of him sharing a birth name with Charlie Sheen. But having a moniker just allows him to sink into his mound mentally even deeper, allowing one of the nicest kids in baseball to momentarily become a killer.

A year ago, no one was certain that Estevez would even be put on the 40-man roster. The organization took a leap of faith and issued a clear challenge by adding him to the roster and Estevez responded by rewarding that faith immediately. He is emblematic of a new era of Rockies development and represents everything Jeff Bridich preaches when he talks about how to be a successful pitcher in Denver; he has a great fastball but more importantly, he has the mentality and the character to allow him to go from an afterthought to a Major League closer in just a few months.


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