Friedrich Hoping For Healthy New Year





DENVER—Better fastball command will help lefthander Christian Friedrich next season. And the chances of that happening will soar if Friedrich can stay healthy, make most of his starts and learn from all the experience.

Friedrich, 23, will return to Double-A Tulsa to start 2011 after going 3-6, 5.05 in 18 starts. He pitched just 87 innings, allowing 100 hits and 35 walks with 78 strikeouts. Friedrich was hurt three different times, suffering left elbow inflammation, a left elbow contusion after being struck by a batted ball and finally a strained left lat muscle that ended his season Aug. 18.

Friedrich, the Rockies' first-round pick and 25th player taken in 2008, said he decided after the second injury in mid-July not to return to the Chicago area but instead train where it's warm in the offseason. He drove to Tempe, Ariz., after Tulsa's final game.

There he followed the Rockies program, and when his lat muscle healed, Friedrich began working out more intensely at Fisher Sports in Phoenix in early November.

"Out here, you wake up to sunshine," Friedrich said. "I'm trying to think what I learned in psychology where you're in a dark, dormant place for a long period of time, you start to get a little depressed . . . I think the sun has something to do with cheering me up."

So does good health and the knowledge that in one of his final starts, Friedrich, with help from pitching coach Bryan Harvey before he left the organization, was able to focus better and more easily than before and marvel at the resulting location.

"Obviously, command-wise, I'm nowhere near some of the guys that are above me that I met in (big league) camp last year," Friedrich said.

"But there were some good outings where I felt I could put it where I wanted. That small bit of focus, just concentrate on the next pitch and nothing else—it actually let me just open up that inside part of the plate."

ROCKY ROADS

• Outfielder Jeff Salazar, 30, and third baseman Matt Macri, 28, returned to the organization on minor league contracts. The Rockies drafted Salazar in the eighth round in 2002 and Macri in the fifth round in 2004.

• New staff members include low Class A Asheville hitting coach Lenn Sakata and short-season Tri-City pitching coach Dave Burba, who will make his coaching debut. Sakata played 11 big league seasons as a middle infielder, mostly with the Orioles in the 1980s. Burba pitched 15 seasons in the big leagues, compiling a 115-87, 4.49 career record and retiring after the 2005 season.