Rockies Pitching Coach Facing a Whole New World -- a Spring Without Baseball
At the age of 53, Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster just pruned an apple tree for the first time in his life.
“I’m checking off boxes of things I have not been able to most of my life,” he said. “I know how to use an electric screwdriver and a hammer, but I have to be careful with the hammer because I’m not really accurate with it.”
It is a new world for Foster, who has spent his summer in dugouts and on baseball fields since his youth.
Heck, he hasn’t spent a summer at home since he was 21. A 12th-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Reds out of Texas-Arlington in June of 1988, he has spent his summers traveling across North America as a player, coach or scout ever since.
And he, like everybody else associated with professional baseball, is anxious to get back on the road. The 2020 season was disrupted in the midst of spring training because of concerns about the coronavirus that has spread around the globe.
That, however, hasn’t kept him from keeping in touch with other members of the Rockies staff, and the pitchers on the team’s roster. There is that lingering expectation that sometime before too long, America will start to work its way back to normalcy, which means Foster will be back in Scottsdale, Ariz., helping get the Rockies pitching staff ready for the start of whatever remains for a baseball season.
“Our goal is to get as many games in as they can,” he said.
That, however, will come with a spring training that most likely will be along the lines of 1995 when a player strike that began in August of 1994 delayed the start of spring training until a week into April. The season opening game was three weeks later, and led to a regular season of 144 games.
Given the expectation that teams won’t even report for a training camp until sometime in May – at the earliest – it’s not likely that teams will be able to cram 144 games into the regular season this time, but that will just mean that each game will have an added significance. And that means it will be important for teams to have a starting rotation in place.
It means starting pitchers who are playing catcher on their own, with an occasional mound session, right now, will need to tune things up in a hurry.
“The relievers and position players can get ready in a short time,” said Foster. “The starters will need that three-week period to build their arms up enough to be able to compete.”
And they need to be working on their own to make sure that a three-week spring training, give or take a few days, will put them in position for game competition.
That’s why Foster, and the other pitching coaches in the organization, have had regular contact with the veterans and the prospects, trying to make sure they understand the challenge that awaits them.
“None of the young players have experienced this type of adversity,” said Foster. “We need to stay engaged so we are a helping hand, an encouraging mentor, a coach.”
Foster said “15 or 16 guys” are still in Arizona, where a good share of them make their off-season home, staying in shape.
“In most cases it’s with one other guy,” said Foster. “Chi Chi (Gonzalez) is working with (Jairo) Diaz, (Kyle) Freeland and (Jeff) Hoffman, (Jairo) Diaz and (Antonio) Senzatela . . . Guys have to continue to get their arms going and get ready (for spring training).
“We’ll have a couple side sessions, a couple rounds of live batting practice, and then start games, and go through a few rotations to build up pitching counts for the regular season.”
Until then, it’s a matter of waiting for clearance to move forward with a season.