Youth movement

Apodaca relishes chance to work with Rockies' young arms

Colorado Rockies pitching coordinator Bob Apodaca watches the Grand Junction Rockies as they warm up during practice at Suplizio Field on Saturday.

The Colorado Rockies selected 25 pitchers in the Major League Baseball draft a little more than a week ago.

Many of them will begin their professional careers right here in Grand Junction, and longtime pitching coach Bob Apodaca will be visiting often to work with them and is presently in town.

“When I stepped down last year, (General Manager) Dan (O’Dowd) and I talked, and we were planning this for a couple years,” Apodaca said. “I told him I wanted to work with the youngest classifications. That includes here, obviously, Tri-City (Wash.) and Asheville (N.C.).

“I get a chance to work at the grassroots level.”

The Colorado Rockies assistant pitching coordinator will work closely with Grand Junction Rockies pitching coach Ryan Kibler.

“We do so much talking before the game as far as what’s going on,” Apodaca said. “Identifying the areas of improvement is the easy part. It is what you do to attack these areas that are better needed. ... That’s when we bounce ideas of each other. That’s part of my job, not only help in the development of the players, but the development of the coaching staff. This is my 43rd year in professional baseball. I’ve learned some things along the way.”

Apodaca wants young Grand Junction Rockies pitchers to focus on building fundamentals and the process of becoming a better pitcher — not the results.

That begins with establishing fastball command for many of these young pitchers and figuring out why they don’t have it.

“We’re trying to get them to focus on the process and not the outcome,” Apodaca said. “We do some things well as far as control (the body) and achieving something seldom done as balance. By being able to do that, we’re going to get a desired result. If we focus on the result, we’re going to skip through some of the process we’re trying to accomplish. We’re going to be very basic as far as fastball command, low fastball command and the introduction of the changeup.”

Many pitchers beginning professional ball haven’t developed secondary pitches because they didn’t need it to win games at the high school or college level.

“Some of their ability has been above the competition where they played and haven’t developed secondary pitches,” Apodaca said. “Some might not of developed command of the strike zone. We first have to see what the scouts signed. For the very first-year players, we’re going to be observers and work on balance and timing issues.”

Many pitching injuries are a result of poor mechanics, but Apodaca wants the young pitchers starting their careers to focus on balance.

“The last thing we want to do is get into mechanics with somebody,” Apodaca said. “Sometimes they do have some mechanical issues, but it can be caused by a lack of balance. You see something that is obvious, but what’s the cause? I want to treat the cause. That’s what doctors do.

“If we can solve some problems because of balance and timing issues, then you don’t have to delve into mechanics. Everything requires balance and timing.”

Apodaca is looking forward to working with first-round pick Jonathan Gray, who was the No. 3 overall selection.

“I’ve seen some film and obviously (Gray) does possess a power fastball, but he does possess a power slider too,” Apodaca said. “These are two ingredients that made him very formidable in college baseball. He’s a big, strong kid.”

Gray arrived Monday, but he’s not expected to take the mound right away. Gray was 10-3 with a 1.64 ERA for the University of Oklahoma. He struck out 147 batters and walked 24 in 126 innings.

“We’ll be well aware of the amount of innings he pitches this year,” Apodaca said. “We want to see Jonathan Gray. It’s going to take a step back, introduce ourselves, let him know what’s in store for him as far as professional baseball. We’re going to let him get his feet wet and not overwhelm him with things that don’t need to be introduced to him.

“We’ll have conference calls as far as (Gray’s) work load. I’m sure (we’ll) be very cautious with him and get him back into a routine of what a pitcher is. Let’s face it, pitchers are routine-oriented. I’m sure it will entail throwing some batting practices, and maybe a simulated game, before he gets out there and tees it up.”


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