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A few weeks ago on the BSN Rockies Podcast, I was asked about how the Rockies might try to arrange their starting rotation in order to avoid having a rookie make his MLB debut on top of having the responsibility of pitching the 2017 home opener at Coors Field. My answer was to move whatever rookie grabbed the fifth spot up one and let Chad Bettis take the honor of pitching the first game in Colorado.
Of course, incredibly sad news struck Bettis, and it’s worth reminding everyone to help support his cause and use the hashtag #TogetherForBettis.
So now, there is no easy answer to this question. You don’t want to hold back Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, or Tyler Chatwood from starts in a season where you’re trying to contend just to avoid one game of sky-high nerves for someone else on the roster. And every other guy in consideration will be in the position of making his debut (or close to it) if given the home opener as well. But this suddenly presents a unique, and incredibly exciting, opportunity for one of Denver’s native sons who also happens to be doing everything in his power to prove he belongs on the 25-man roster when the season begins: Kyle Freeland.
Can you imagine the atmosphere at 20th and Blake—which is already something to behold on Opening Day—when 40,000 of Freeland’s friends and family pack the joint in a united effort to cheer one of their own?
Sure, we are now going in the complete opposite direction of trying to curtail the heartbeat. Just thinking about it gets my heart going, and nobody is asking me to pitch for the first time in the majors for the team I grew up cheering for on one of the biggest days of the year—in a yard that’s a 10 minute drive from my high school field.
It will be a thrill just to put on the purple pinstripes and the CR hat for the very first time. But then to take that uniform out to the mound in front of the most raucous crowd of the year (unless the Rockies are in the hunt in September) is a thrill on a whole different level.
Freeland recently spoke to BSN Denver about his growing confidence, especially when it comes not giving up any free passes, something that historically bodes well for pitching in Colorado.
Still, it’s hard to see how he could possibly keep the nerves completely at bay if given the opportunity I’m suggesting here, but it’s going to be tough for Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, or Antonio Senzatela as well. But none of those guys would bring the incredible narrative and immense energy that Freeland would. Coors Field would get turned up to 11.
If it blows up in his/their faces? So what? It’s just one game. I’ve talked to Freeland enough over the last three years to know he could bounce back from one bad start, no matter how public. It won’t ruin him.
But if it goes the other way? If Freeland is good-to-great and secures his first Rockies win and the first home victory of 2017? There may be no better way the team could imagine in their fairytale dreams to start a season. And really, an era.