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Jesus Tinoco's Future Role Still Undecided

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Success relieving in the Arizona Fall League has created options for righthander Jesus Tinoco and the Rockies.

The 23-year-old Tinoco is a physical presence on the mound at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, and he went 9-12, 4.79 last year in 24 starts at Double-A Hartford, where he averaged 8.4 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings.

In 10 appearances in the Arizona Fall League, including five of at least two innings, Tinoco went 0-0, 1.72, averaging eight strikeouts and 3.4 walks per nine innings while limiting opponents to a .190 average.

"He’s made a lot of strides where you could say he could continue to start,” said Rockies farm director Zach Wilson. "But that being said, coming off the success in the fall league, he certainly may have found his niche in the bullpen. But I think that’s still to be be judged. We’ll bring him into camp to get him ready to be a starter, but he could very well end up in the 'pen.”

The Rockies acquired Tinoco from the Blue Jays in the July 2015 six-player deal that sent Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto. Tinoco sits at 95 mph with a fastball that ranges from 93-97 mph. His curveball, slider and changeup are all slightly above-average, and Tinoco continued to be aggressive with all four pitches in relief.

"He doesn’t have just one single, unbelievable double-plus breaking ball,” Wilson said. "But he’s got three above-average offspeed pitches that he can use to get outs with.”

Tinoco went 5-0, 1.80 in seven starts for low Class A Asheville in 2015 after being acquired from Toronto. But trying too hard to impress in his first spring training with the Rockies, Tinoco’s delivery got out of whack. He began 2016 at high Class A Modesto, went 0-3, 14.85 in four starts and was sent back to Asheville where he went 3-8, 5.63.

Progress came in 2017 at high Class A Lancaster, where Tinoco went 11-4, 4.67, including 3-3, 2.95 in his final seven starts with eight walks and 36 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. All of which led the Rockies to then add Tinoco to their 40-man roster.

"Basically, the main focus the entire year was making sure he was balanced over the rubber and that as he followed through, he was not spinning off,” Wilson said. "He was staying on line and following through toward home plate. He had a very bad habit of spinning off badly.”

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NOTES:

— Shortstop Ryan Vilade, the Rockies' top pick in 2017 when they took him in the second round, suffered a small fracture in his right ring finger in mid-December while taking batting practice. The freak injury required no surgery, and Vilade is expected to be fully recovered by mid-February.

— Outfielder Michael Saunders, infielder Peter Mooney, catcher Brett Nicholas and righthander Chi Chi Gonzalez signed minor league contracts with invitations to big league camp. All but Mooney have previously played in the majors.

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