SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Justin Lawrence is an intriguing reliever. There is no doubt about that.
The right-hander with the sidearm delivery can throw a 100mph fastball from a funky angle, then come back with a dipping, 85mph slider that ties a hitter in knots.
“What a weapon,” said manager Bud Black.
But to help the Rockies this season, 27-year-old Lawrence must harness his talent. If he does, the Rockies will have improved their bullpen, which is something that must be done if they are to stand a chance of being a winning team.
“I feel like I’m in a good place,” Lawrence said on Wednesday. “Buddy told me at the end of last season that I had to do some things, especially to make my delivery repeatable. I know they wanted to see that from me. I worked hard to make it happen.”
Lawrence made his debut last April, then bounced between the Rockies and Triple-A Albuquerque. He made 19 appearances in six stints in Colorado, and although he flashed talent, the results were not pretty: 8.64 ERA, 2,400 WHIP and 19 walks in 16 2/3 innings.
“What’s intriguing is the potential, based on the strength of that arm slot and the ability to spin the ball,” Black said. “You don’t often come across that combo in a (sidearmer). I think there’s a strikeout in it and I think there’s a groundball. Those are two good things. So we’ll see if his time is now or if he just needs a little more spice.”
Lawrence, who still has a minor league option, was 6-5 last season with a 4.73 ERA in 31 relief outings for Triple-A Albuquerque, giving up 13 in 32 1/3 innings, striking out 30 and 12 fours wide. Lawrence struggled in 2019 and was banned from performance-enhancing drugs for 80 games, which ultimately spanned the entire 2020 pandemic season.
Now, with his mechanics in a better place, Lawrence is making headway. This spring, he has a 2.25 ERA, albeit over just four innings. Best of all, he didn’t walk while striking out four.
“I would say this is a springboard year for me,” he said. “I’ve set the ceiling for myself and I think there’s potential to reach it.”
Marquez solid. Righthanded German Marquez, the likely starter on opening day against the Dodgers on April 8 at Coors Field, threw a strong 3 2/3 inning in Wednesday’s Cactus League-game against the Diamondbacks. He gave up one run on four hits, walked no and struckout six.
“Everything worked today and my pace was great,” said Marquez, whose fastball peaked at 148 mph.
He threw 60 pitches, 44 for strikes. With another Cactus League start, he is on pace to throw some 90 pitches in the season opener.
“I thought he threw some good fastballs, especially to the left-handed batters and he threw some good sliders that were down,” Black said. “Overall, it was a positive outing for German.”
Blaak impresses. Black takes a hard look at relievers as spring practice draws to a close. One pitcher who impresses him is left-handed Ty Blach, the Jesuit graduate of Regis. Blach turns out to be a long reliever and an emergency starter.
Blach gave up two basehits on Wednesday, but no runs in an inning of work. He has a 2.57 ERA through four appearances in the spring (two starts), striking out five and not walking.
“Ty showed really well and I’m impressed,” Black said. “I like that he has a starter background, with four or five pitches. If he doesn’t make the spring training rotation, there’s a good chance he’ll make it to the bullpen.
“He’s a man who can eat some innings. We will need that because of the shortened length or our starters from the parachute.”