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Jeff Hoffman will sacrifice this if it helps the Rockies 'win the NL West'

Drew Creasman Avatar
March 21, 2017
Scottsdale, Ariz. — There is a wide range of beliefs when it comes to giving promising young starting pitchers the chance to break into the big leagues in the bullpen. It worked out pretty damn well for Adam Wainright and David Price, less so for Neftali Feliz. And while the Colorado Rockies absolutely acquired Jeff Hoffman from the Toronto Blue Jays in the blockbuster Troy Tulowitzki trade with every intention that he could one day even stand atop their rotation, right this moment, he may be better suited for the ‘pen.
Credit: Drew Creasman, BSN Denver

Firstly, the Rockies have far more exciting options right now in the rotation than they do for the final few spots in the bullpen with Antonio Senzatela now racing into the class that includes Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, and Hoffman. So moving one of those guys, albeit temporarily, into a relief role could solve two problems with one move; helping a spot on the team that could need it, and making sure a young player with extraordinary talent isn’t stuck in the minors where he can’t help the MLB team contend.

All three young guys make some sense for this role, but Hoffman’s Tommy John surgery prior to the draft has limited his development time. This shouldn’t be mistaken for the idea that Hoffman is not yet healthy.
In an exclusive with BSN Denver, when asked if he is 100 percent, he said, “Yeah, absolutely, I’m good. I feel stronger every year. I feel like I checked that box and I feel like I’m getting better every day. It feels good.”
But the delay to his professional career also resulted in the Rockies wisely being very careful with Hoffman. He eased into action with pitch limits in 2015 and 2016, pitching under 100 innings his first year and 149.3 innings last season. It’s unclear whether or not the limits have been completely removed, but either way, the Rockies are being cautious with a player they think can be a big part of their future. And a move to the bullpen should not be seen as second-guessing his ultimate value but rather as a natural extension of this thought process.
Keeping the wear and tear on the arm down is good for all kinds of reasons, including his long term health. It would be a bit much to ask him to step right into the rotation and give the club 200 + innings considering he has never done that before. Even just in terms of understanding how to beat MLB competition over multiple times through a lineup and then facing that lineup again a month later, easing him into the process begins to make all the sense in the world.
He was tossed into the fire a year ago to mixed results, perhaps allowing him to dip a toe in the pool first this season could do him some good.

But it isn’t just for his own protection or a way to continue cautious development against the best players in the world that might be the reasoning why Hoffman ends up in the ‘pen. There is a positive reason to try this. His 97 mph fastball and big breaking curve could play brilliantly in that role. And with Jason Motte, Chad Qualls, and other vets looking like shadows of themselves while young guys like Miguel Castro and Jairo Diaz appear to not quite be ready, the Rockies could turn to someone like Scott Oberg or Jordan Lyles, but neither comes with much excitement. Hoffman adds that much more high-end potential to a bullpen that desperately needed dynamic arms a year ago.

Credit: Drew Creasman, BSN Denver
As the Denver Post recently reported, Hoffman’s command has been a bit rusty this spring, and he could use some less stressful opportunities to develop because the talent is clearly there.
When we asked him, Jeff “Fearless” said this has been his focus this spring, “just commanding everything. It’s always a work in progress. One day you could be really good and the next something goes. I’m just trying to reign everything in right now, get everything moving in the right direction, hopefully for the Opening Day. I feel like every time out, I’ve gotten better. Results might not show that, but I’m happy with the process right now. You want to go out and get yourself better so that come that first start for the season, you’re in a good spot and you put your team in a position to win.”
And Hoffman recognizes that the spot where he may be able to impact the club the most right now, might not be the one he is most hoping for.
“I’m open to it. Obviously, I’m competing for the starters spot. I want the starters spot,” he said when we asked about a potential change in position. “But if the team needs an arm in the bullpen for any specific role, I’m happy to do it. If it means we’re gonna win a few more games this year and win the NL West? Obviously, I’m gonna do it.”
Win the NL West? So, he isn’t lacking for confidence in himself or his teammates.
It was clear, both from the above quote and from the tenor of our conversation that Jeff Hoffman sees himself as a starter but is also a team player. It goes beyond that, though. He quickly moved into a space of thinking about all the benefits the move could have.
“I think it honestly can help you out,” he says. “You’re going out in shorter stints, with smaller work loads. I did it last year for two outings and I was working on stuff. I feel like it’s easier to work on stuff when you are going out there for a shorter period of time. You can focus and just get it done for one or two innings and then you start thinking, ‘yeah I can do this for five or six.'”
Come later in the season, Hoffman’s MLB relief experience could be essential when they try to convert him back to a starter. Manager Bud Black knows a little something about this, having made such a transition himself, and there may be no better person to guide Hoffman through it should the Rockies choose to go this direction.
“You know what guys really want to do?” Black asked me in response to a question about any of these guys having to give up starting temporarily to move into unknown (or at least lesser known) territory.
“Play in the big leagues?” I responded.
“That’s right.”
A move to the ‘pen could well be Jeff Hoffman’s chance at the Opening Day roster, and it appears as though he has every intention of making the most of that chance.

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