Righthander Ryan Feltner made notable progress last year despite not pitching in a game until instructional league.
During a pitching camp at their Scottsdale, Ariz., complex last January and briefly at minor league camp in March before it was halted, the Rockies set a development path for the 24-year-old Feltner to follow at home in Ohio before coming to instructional league.
“It was very, very clear from the moment he stepped in there,” Rockies farm director Zach Wilson said, “that everything he was working on and that we had been working on with him was not only taking hold but really was having some pretty dramatic positive results.”
The Rockies drafted Feltner in the fourth round out of Ohio State in 2018. A year later, he went 9-9, 5.07 in 25 starts at Low-A Asheville.
“The stuff was always there,” Wilson said. “It’s just a matter of consistency for him. One of the areas where I think he was able to make strides over the summer was we shortened his arm action. There’s not as much length to his arm stroke in the back.
“That’s allowing him now to do a couple things. One is just command his fastball better. But also it’s allowed him to get his hand and his fingers in a better position throughout his arm swing to throw a more consistent and better slider.”
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Feltner has minimized the kick-out motion he had with his front leg while swinging it toward his full stride. A softer leg swing along with the shorter arm stroke has enabled Feltner’s arm strength to play up more consistently.
Feltner’s fastball sits 95-96 mph, up from 92-93 before these adjustments. He throws his curveball sparingly but has a very good 80-82 mph changeup with sinking action. His slider is now 85-87 mph with a later break.
With the shorter arm stroke, all of Feltner’s pitches can “come out of the same slot with a little bit more consistency,” Wilson said.
— Pitching coordinator Steve Merriman resigned to become pitching coach at Michigan, a job he held in 2002 and 2012. Merriman was in the Rockies’ organization for two years, serving as the Double-A Hartford pitching coach in 2019 and the pitching coordinator at the upper levels last year where he was one of the coaches at the alternate training site in Denver. Merriman’s understanding of analytics and data and how to impart that knowledge in usable ways made him a valuable resource for a number of Rockies pitchers at both the major and minor league levels. Merriman was with the Cubs in 2018 when they set up a high-tech pitching lab in Mesa, Ariz., and worked with Rockies director of pitching Mark Wiley and the minor league pitching coaches to build one at the team’s Scottsdale complex when he joined the organization in 2019.
— The Rockies signed outfielders Nick Longhi, 25, and Wynton Bernard, 30, to minor league contracts in hopes they provide depth at Triple-A. Longhi played at Triple-A Louisville in 2019 and hit .283/.336/.463 in 111 games with 12 homers and 51 RBIs. Bernard played a combined 52 games at Double-A and Triple-A in the Cubs’ organization in 2019 and hit .278/.359/.444. That year he also played 61 games at independent Sugar Land, where he hit .314/.353/.461. In 23 games at Sugar Land in 2020, Bernard hit .270/.325/.378.