Rockies spring training report: Bud Black thrilled with WBC, Kyle Freeland’s performance

The World Baseball Classic was a huge hit, drawing more than 1.3 million fans, the highest attendance in the tournament’s history. In baseball-crazy Japan, the TV ratings went through the roof and set records.

Rockies manager Bud Black was a huge fan, too. He and the players watched a good chunk of Tuesday night’s championship game in which Japan beat Team USA, 3-2. Black was especially interested to see Colorado left-hander Kyle Freeland perform on a big stage. Freeland allowed one run over three innings, striking out two, including WBC MVP Shohei Ohtani.

“Everybody that I have talked to, that has been involved in (the WBC), has told me it’s been a great experience,” Black told reporters Wednesday morning at Salt Rivers Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz. “The competitive intensity over the life of the WBC has ramped up. As watchers of it, I think we felt that this year.”

Regarding Freeland’s performance, Black said: “In a championship game — albeit in an all-star tournament, and not a lengthy season of finding a champion — I thought Kyle performed well. He gave up the one solo homer. I’m happy for Kyle.”

Injury updates: Right-hander relievers Gavin Hollowell (sore back) and Jake Bird (strained oblique) both pitched on Tuesday night in the Rockies’ 14-2 loss to San Diego. The duo has missed most of the Cactus League because of their injuries. The Rockies are hoping one, or both will be ready for the March 30 season opener at San Diego. Both are expected to be members of the bullpen when they are fully healthy.

Roster moves: Right-hander Phillips Valdez (9.31 ERA in seven spring games) and outfielder Cole Tucker (.194/.293/.361 in 36 at-bats) were reassigned to minor league camp Wednesday. Both players were non-roster invitees.

Angels 10, Rockies 9
Wednesday at Salt River Fields

On the mound: It was not a good day for two Rockies veterans. The Angels belted three homers off right-hander Jose Urena, who was tagged for five runs on six hits over six innings. Urena, whom the Rockies hope will be a reasonably solid veteran in the rotation, has a 6.60 spring ERA.

Veteran lefty reliever Brad Hand owns an ugly 11.25 ERA after giving up four earned runs on four hits (including a homer) and three walks without recording an out.

The good news: Relievers Fernando Abad (two-thirds of an inning), Pierce Johnson (one inning) and Dinelson Lamet (one inning) each recorded a scoreless outing.

At the plate: The two rookies who will start on the left side of the infield had big days.

Shortstop Ezequiel Tovar went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and three RBIs. It was Tovar’s second Cactus League homer and he boosted his average to .268.

Third baseman Elehuris Montero went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, raising his average to .314. Montero’s .588 slugging percentage and .963 OPS each rank second in the Cactus League.

Up next: The Rockies are off Thursday. They are scheduled to play the Brewers at 1:10 p.m. (2:10 p.m. MDT) on Friday at American Family Fields in Maryvale, Ariz.

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