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Friedrich makes quick work of Friars in debut win

Submitted by Sports on May 10, 2012 – 4:22 amNo Comment

SAN DIEGO — Can’t take your eye off Rockies left-hander Christian Friedrich. He works so quickly that a few seconds daydreaming may cost you a couple pitches. A bathroom break could make you miss an inning.

The way Friedrich pitched in his Major League debut Wednesday afternoon, Rockies fans will want to watch his every move. He struck out seven in six innings of a 6-2 victory over the Padres at Petco Park in front of 20,059 spectators, as the Rockies stopped their losing streak at five games.

It took Friedrich, 24, far longer to sort through the 49 e-mails and 65 texts he received than it did to vanquish the Padres to the tune of two runs, one earned, on five hits and one walk.

“The quicker you can throw the ball across the plate, the less time I have to think,” Friedrich said.

The Rockies had plenty of time to praise Friedrich, the club’s first-round pick in the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

It was a long, slow route for Friedrich, who struggled with injuries and consistency issues before learning from the Phillies’ Cliff Lee, former Rockies All-Star Mike Hampton and current Rockies veteran Jamie Moyer. He arrived in camp this year in better condition and with greater purpose than at any point in his pro career.

“This kid has worked really hard and gotten himself into a really good place,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “He did exactly what I thought he was going to do from what I thought in Spring Training — establish his fastball, pitch with his fastball and mix in his breaking stuff.”

The Padres’ Yonder Alonso said, “He was a guy that was pounding the zone. Just couldn’t put those big hits together.”

This time, the Rockies took advantage of strong work from their starter. Friedrich’s outing came a day after Alex White held the Padres to two runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 3-2 loss. Both hurlers were called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs earlier this week. The starts by White and Friedrich gave the club 13 starts of six or more innings in its first 30 games. The Rockies are 9-4 in those games.

In avoiding being swept in a three-game set, and in preventing the Padres from completing their first sweep of the season, the Rockies got odd run-scoring doubles from Jason Giambi (for one run in the fourth) and Wilin Rosario (two runs in the sixth). In both cases, the ball hit the extreme top of the outfield fence, and the umpiring crew went to replay to see if they were actually home runs.

Rosario’s double was one of four hits in a four-run sixth, which also included Michael Cuddyer’s sacrifice fly and the first of two RBI singles for Chris Nelson, who had previously been 0-for-22 on the road. All of the runs that inning against Padres starter Anthony Bass were unearned because of shortstop Andy Parrino’s fielding error on Jonathan Herrera’s one-out grounder.

The Rockies (13-17) continue their eight-game National League West road trip Friday with the opener of three against the Dodgers. After that comes a two-game set against the Giants.

Tracy called a brief meeting with the club before Wednesday’s game. After several big offensive games at Coors Field, Tracy and general manager Dan O’Dowd each saw hitters carry big swings to Petco Park, where such an approach is not rewarded. Tracy delivered the message.

Giambi said he understood.

“Maybe that’s a mental thing we have to change, get some hits here and there and not focus on hitting so many fly balls,” Giambi said. “But I wish the game was that easy. I’d be hitting grounders to third and beat the shift.

“But it worked out because we got an outstanding pitching performance. I know how hard he’s worked. I was excited for him. He came with it today.”

Friedrich said he wanted to avoid the over-aggressiveness some pitchers have displayed in their Major League debuts, but he might have gone too far. But after giving up two hits, a walk and a run in the first inning, Friedrich struck out Nick Hundley looking to end the frame. That began a stretch that saw him fan seven of the next 13 hitters.

“It felt like that [first] inning was forever, and I wanted to get back in the dugout with the team,” Friedrich said. “That strikeout definitely helped the ball start rolling.”

Rosario, who caught Friedrich for three years in the Minors, appreciated the pace.

“I told him, ‘Don’t think too much, just let it go,’” Rosario said. “He’s faster now, and the pitches are better.”

The second run off Friedrich scored in the third inning. Marco Scutaro, playing shortstop while Troy Tulowitzki rested a sore left groin, threw wide of first base after fielding Cameron Maybin’s one-out grounder.

After Chase Headley singled, Alonso drove home Maybin with a double for a 2-0 lead, but Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez prevented a second run on the play by throwing out Headley at the plate.

Friedrich had his parents, Dr. William Friedrich, a dentist who has been called upon at times by the Cubs; Dr. Barbara Velsor-Friedrich, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago; sisters Alex, who is 3 years older, and Katie, who is 3 years younger; as well as six boyhood friends and teammates in the stands.

“Just seeing all those guys and how excited they were, while I was trying to be as calm as possible through this entire process,” Friedrich said, “it’s definitely soaked in.”

Thomas Harding is a reporter for

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