Justin Lawrence Limits Hard Contact
The sidearm delivery is different but not rare. What sets reliever Justin Lawrence apart is he can reach 100 mph from that angle with a sinking fastball that sits in the 96-98 mph range.
In eight Cactus League appearances, Lawrence allowed seven hits and five walks with three strikeouts in 7.1 innings.
“The way he’s thrown the ball, it gives us a great deal of hope that we have something on our hands in the future,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.
The 26-year-old righthander complements his fastball with a slider, primarily a hard sweeper at 85-86 mph.
Hard contact is a rarity against Lawrence, who has allowed 15 home runs in 197.1 innings since the Rockies drafted him in the 12th round in 2015 out of Daytona Beach (Fla.) JC.
“It can be very, very uncomfortable as a righthanded hitter,” Rockies farm director Zach Wilson said, “because generally you’re either going to get frozen or you’re just going to beat it into the ground.”
Lefthanded hitters can look for something firm with sink, but Wilson said when the unorthodox Lawrence “keeps it on the outer half of the plate, it’s just hard to do anything impactful with the pitch.”
Lawrence, who spent most of the 2019 season at Double-A Hartford, is trying to do more than return from an idle 2020. That January, he was suspended for 80 games after violating Major League Baseball’s drug program following a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance.
It was not a willful offense on Lawrence’s part, and Wilson said Lawrence came to spring training last year with humility, acceptance of what had occurred and what he needed to do.
“As we went through this past season and got into this winter and spring,” Wilson said, “he wanted to make sure that he was going to show people that (after) a year off, 'I’m not going to come in with excuses that this happened to me, and I haven’t pitched for a year. I’m going to show you right here, right now that I am ready to go.’ And he did that in a very real and big way."
— Third baseman Colton Welker, 23, had an impressive big league camp. Losing about 10 pounds after altering his diet and working with a trainer on his agility paid off for Welker, who is also adjusting to first base. Through 25 Cactus League games, Welker, a fourth-round pick in 2016 out of high school, had gone 15-for-42 and was hitting .357/.378/.500.
“He just needs more at-bats,” Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan said. “But he’s a talented hitter. What I love about him the most I that he’s got that confidence. He’s never shaken in the middle of a game. There’s always a little bit of self-doubt in these young players, but he doesn’t seem to have a lot of self-doubts. He knows he can hit.”
— Pedro Lopez, who had been scheduled to be the supervisor of development at High-A Spokane, will be the hitting coach at Triple-A Albuquerque. That position opened up shortly before spring training when Tim Doherty was promoted to the big league coaching staff to assist Magadan and assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar.
Lopez was the supervisor of development at Rookie-level Grand Junction last year, his first in the Rockies’ organization, following 12 years in the Mets’ organization. Lopez, 52, has extensive experience managing at the upper minor league levels and should be a good resource for Warren Schaeffer in his second season as Albuquerque manager. Freddy Ocasio, who was scheduled to be the supervisor of development for the Rockies’ Arizona League affiliate, will replace Lopez as Spokane’s supervisor of development. There will be no supervisor of development this year in the AZL, where manager Jake Opitz will head a five-man coaching staff.