Rockies take Monday's game 6-5

Monday at Salt River Fields, the Colorado Rockies were the home team in front of a crowd of 7,758 people and the fans went home happy when first basement Ben Paulsen, who added a toe tap this offseason, hit a walk-off home run off the first pitch he saw from Diamondbacks RHP Jon Albaladejo. In the 6-5 victory, Rockies pitchers owned the afternoon.

RHP Jhoulys Chacin got the start for the Rockies and pitched two innings. His fastball sat between 88-91 mph. He threw 29 pitches, 21 for strikes, and allowed 3 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits, 1 walk, and two first inning errors. His only strikeout was when he caught outfielder Justin Upton looking in the first inning.

"I feel really happy because I did what I was looking for, which was throwing my fastball for a strike," Chacin said. "Throwing my first pitch for a strike and getting ahead of the hitters and make outs with the fastball. That's what I'm trying to do."

The game plan was readily apparent after the first inning and Arizona hitters adjusted by swinging at Chacin's first pitch offerings in the second frame. 

"It doesn't matter if they know I'm going to throw a fastball, that's what I'm going to do is throw a fastball," he said. "That's what I want to do here in Spring Training is throw my fastball for a strike. During the season, I'm going to try and do the same and also mix it up more. I want to throw the fastball here and locate it good and get ground balls and quick outs."

That's exactly what he did as breaking balls were few and far between from Chacin Monday. 

"I threw one slider and two curveballs, I didn't throw much breaking balls," he said. "I just throw my fastball and my sinker. I really feel happy because I threw my fastball for a strike." 

The lone earned run he surrendered was in the second inning and it came on a fastball down the middle to outfielder Gerrardo Parra, who also made a sliding and diving catch later in the game. 

Chacin wasn't worried about the results after the game, noting that he was happy and that his arm felt good.

"My arm feels good," he said. "I'm working out and trying to be shorter [with my motion]. Sometime I get a little long. It's going to help me a lot to throw my fastball for a strike and keep that feeling."

He especially wasn't worried about his velocity being down this early in the spring. 

"I don't really care [about velocity]," Chacin said. "I just want to throw strikes, it doesn't matter how hard you throw if you get good location and consistently throw strikes. Keeping the ball down and for a strike really has been my focus. If I throw my fastball for a strike, my changeup is way better. That's what I want."

His goals for himself this year are also clear.  

"I help my team more [this year], I want to throw more innings," he said. "I want to give us more chances to win and be more in control and I think that's throwing my fastball and get quick outs.

"Get healthy and throw more than 200 innings. To get the ball every five days is the goal for everybody." 

Chacin is also not particularly worried about the lowered expectations for the Rockies pitching staff this year, in fact he looks at it another way.

"I know we have young guys and everyone's talking about what we can do," he said. "I think we'll be fine. Last year was a lot of high expectations and this year we are more [overlooked] and that makes us more dangerous." 

The second Rockies pitcher of the game was LHP Christian Friedrich, a former first round pick. Friedrich also pitched two innings, allowing no runs on one hit and no walks. He struck out two batters, including the first batter he faced in Justin Upton.

"I thought towards the end of both innings, I wouldn't say I relaxed but I thought about it too much like here's two outs," he said. "Instead of putting more or less pressure on myself, I should just be the same the whole way through and that's one of the takeaways from today that I can work on."

Friedrich worked with a fairly high profile name this offseason. Ever heard of this guy Cliff Lee

"I went up there for a week and a half in January and watched [Lee's] program and watched him play catch and throw bullpens and everything," he said. "To learn about and see his work ethic and how he goes about his business is what he wanted me to see. To see what it takes to be a guy at his level."

It was not only a mental preparation, but also physical. 

"We'd throw and we'd warm up and lift and before you know it four hours goes by," Friedrich. "He's one of the strongest guys I've ever been around. I knew he was strong, but I mean I'd look at him in uniform and he's like a cinder block from his forearm to his biceps."

The major takeaway for Friedrich appears to be throwing the ball with more downward plane, something he talked about at length.

"Downhill plane has always been something that's been preached to us and I thought I had it when I got here," he said. "I kind of lost it a little bit and just by watching him play catch I figured it out again. He said throw downhill and I don't know how many times I heard that, but watching how he throws downhill it just kind of clicked in my head. He's real good about having a short and strong front side. He feels that's an easy way to repeat pitches. I just kept it going once I saw that, he does that little curl and now I just concentrate on throwing my wrist at the target. All of a sudden it starts to gain a second gear once it gets down there."

Friedrich is also working quicker on the mound, another trait he poached from Lee. 

"It helps the thought process, especially if you are making big pitches," he said. "You just want to get back and get the ball back and keep the fielders in the game and everything. The more time I have between pitches is the more time I have to analyze, which is something I don't need, I guess."

The physical side of his offseason workouts have already paid dividends as he lost 30 pounds this offseason.

"It was a good 30 pounds," he said. "When I was 240, I didn't have a gut or anything, it was just not what I'm used to doing. I just got on a good diet and practiced mechanics from day one. I just took it from day one with all my lifting and just thinking mechanics, mechanics, mechanics. So that once the season started, it was ingrained so I could stay with my core mechanics."

When evaluating his performance in the Rockies 6-5 victory, Friedrich acknowledged that he still has things he can work on this spring. 

"I missed some spots today, but you can get away with that sometimes when you have that downhill plane," he said. "I'd like to correct some things out of the stretch, out of the windup was a little easier." 

Both of the Rockies young hurlers made statements today and the message is clear: throw the ball down and keep it down. 

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