Hoffman On Brink Of Callup

BEST PLAYER: The centerpiece acquisition in the trade that sent Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays, righthander Jeff Hoffman in 15 starts at Triple-A Albuquerque went 4-5, 3.49 with 88 strikeouts and 29 walks in 88 innings.

“For his second year pitching in professional baseball, doing what he’s doing at Triple-A is pretty remarkable,” player development director Zach Wilson said.

Hoffman, the 2014 first-round pick from East Carolina, has progressed to the point where all four pitches come into play in an outing, and he’s working off those pitches well. As Hoffman nears a callup, Wilson said the focus now is on smaller points, such as consistently holding runners and making sure his effective delivery is both consistently balanced and aggressive.

BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD: Lefthander Sam Howard went 4-3, 2.47 in 11 starts at high Class A Modesto, where he averaged 5.9 hits, 3.3 walks and 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings. He made his Double-A Hartford debut on June 10.

Howard, a 2014 third-rounder from Georgia Southern, had a below-average changeup at this time last year at low Class A Asheville. That pitch now flashes above-average thanks to Howard’s focus on it and resolve to use it, good or bad, in games.

Howard’s changeup is a perfect complement to a 91-92 mph fastball that he commands to both sides of the plate and uses in on righties, along with a back-foot slider that looks like a fastball and leaves them helpless.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: After being acquired from the Blue Jays in the Tulowitzki deal last July, righthander Jesus Tinoco went 5-0, 1.80 in seven starts at Asheville, averaging 1.8 walks and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

In his first spring training in the organization, the 21-year-old Tinoco was overly eager to impress. He tried to pitch through a dead-arm period early in spring, overcompensated and, hence, got a little too high with his front side. The sink on his fastball went away, along with his slider.

Tinoco delivered the ball one-sided to the plate because everything in his delivery was late, so he couldn’t get the ball to his glove side. After going 0-3, 14.85 in four starts at Modesto, the Rockies demoted him to extended spring training. He returned to Asheville when the program ended.

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