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Spring Training Notebook: PitchCom system ushers in new age of baseball technology for pitchers and catchers

Patrick Lyons Avatar
March 24, 2022

The practice fields for the Colorado Rockies have been a bit more quiet than normal the past few days.

You can thank advances in technology for that. And recent sign stealing scandals.

It’s called PitchCom and allows the catcher to communicate with the pitcher without a series of hand signals.

“It’s almost like a video game controller,” catcher Brian Serven said of the Rockies’ latest toy. “You press buttons on your wrist and it’ll tell the pitcher what sign you’re calling so we don’t have to put down a pitcher’s sign set if there’s a runner on second base.”

PitchCom was tested last season in Low-A West, now back to being referred to as the California League, and was seen briefly in the Arizona Fall League.

“I liked it, for sure. We’ll see where things go,” Serven offered in his review. “It’s still in the prototype stage, but I thought it has a real chance to be something used at the pro level.”

Pitchers also seemed to enjoy it, even those that experienced it during in-game action over the last few days.

Ty Blach, who works quick and has a strikeout-per-nine of just 4.9 in his four seasons in the majors, thinks it plays to his advantage on the mound.

“I’m a quick worker. I know that keeps the defense engaged,” explained the southpaw from Centennial. “I get a lot of contact, so I know if I can keep those guys ready behind me, I just have to go out and execute as many pitches as I can.”

Carlos Estévez was skeptical at first. After all of the sign stealing scandals that plagued the sport in recent years, he feels PitchCom could help provide some revolutionary change.

“It makes me work quicker,” he said of the new technology. “That’s the first time. I didn’t know how to react to getting the sign so early. (Normally) I get on the mound, I look at home plate, I get the sign, and then I come set. But at that point, I had the sign and didn’t know what to do. I have to find a rhythm and find a way to incorporate it into my routine.”

With baseball examining the pace of play with possible pitch clocks for pitchers, the solution for reducing the time of game may already be in the hands – rather, on the wrists – of all 30 clubs.

“As soon as they throw a pitch, I’m already thinking about the next pitch,” Serven disclosed. “I’m calling the next pitch before they even step on the mound. It’s a rhythm thing. They’ll have to feel that out, but it can definitely speed things up.”

Monday: 7-4 @ Angels, Loss

In his first plate appearance in purple, Kris Bryant slapped a base hit to left field in his first swing during the first inning in Tempe.

Mar 22, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder Kris Bryant (23) hits against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning during a spring training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The lineup appeared to be something manager Bud Black would consider on Opening Day. Charlie Blackmon was back at leadoff, followed by Bryant, Ryan McMahon, C.J. Cron and Brendan Rodgers batting fifth.

Bret Boswell continued to impress at the plate with a 2-for-3 game that lifted his batting average this Spring to .455 (5-for-11). The 27-year-old 2B/OF notched his fifth RBI, most on the Rockies thus far. 

Denver’s own Kyle Freeland made his Cactus League debut and was able to twirl three innings against the Angels’ first team lineup of Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and company. He allowed two earned runs on three hits while walking one and striking out one.

Tuesday: 8-4 vs. Royals, Loss

Blach made his second start of the Cactus League and had a similar pitching line to fellow Coloradan Freeland: 3 IP and 2 ER. The 31-year-old gave up five hits, walked none and struck out none.

Every member of the bullpen gave up a run except Jake Bird, who struck out two and kept a perfect 0.00 ERA through his three innings of work this March. 

Bird, 26, had a 3.38 ERA last season at Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque. He also represented the Rockies in the Arizona Fall League, throwing an additional 12.2 innings and keeping a stellar 2.84 ERA against the top prospects in the game. 

The starting lineup performed well, led by Connor Joe. The 29-year-old batted second and went 2-for-3 with a double to improve his batting average to .500 (6-for-12) this spring.

Garrett Hampson had a pair of singles for a perfect day at the plate (2-for-2). He’s now hitting .444 (4-for-9) through four games this month. 

Sam Hilliard blasted an opposite field, two-run home run measured at an estimated 379ft.

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