Sam Hilliard’s power potential still intrigues the Rockies, but until the outfielder cuts down on his strikeouts, he’s not helping the team, or himself.
The Rockies, therefore, optioned Hilliard, 27, to their alternative training site in Scottsdale, Ariz. Thursday to begin the season with Triple-A Albuquerque when it opens play on May 6. In 19 games, Hilliard hit .108 with 19 strikeouts in 39 plate appearances for an alarming 48.7% strikeout rate.
Taking Hilliard’s place on the 26-man roster is veteran first baseman Matt Adams, 32, who joined the Rockies in Phoenix in time for Thursday night’s game against the Diamondbacks.
The Rockies were hopeful that Hilliard would blossom this season, providing some depth and consistent offense. Right now, however, Hilliard is lost at the plate.
“We got together with Sam, and with the hitting coaches, and felt as though he needed more time in the minor leagues to make the mechanical adjustments that he has to make,” manager Bud Black said. “It’s really tough to try to go through those mechanical changes in the big leagues against big-league pitchers (like) Trevor Bauer, (Jacob) deGrom, Marcus Stroman.”
Black added that Hilliard also was being sent down so he could regroup and regain some confidence.
“When you get into a situation like Sam is in, it can get overwhelmingly mental,” Black said. “You starting doubting yourself, the confidence lags and you get into a really tough spot.”
Adams has been linked to the Rockies for a few years but a deal was never made. So why now?
“We’re looking for some offense, and Matt, hopefully, will provide that,” Black said, adding that Adams outperformed both Greg Bird and Connor Joe during games at the alternative site, thus earning the promotion.
The Rockies’ offense needs a lot of help. The Rockies were hitting .235 entering Thursday night’s game. Worse, the Rockies were hitting just .196 on the road and scoring just 2.3 runs per game. Plus, Colorado’s .291 on-base percentage is the worst in the NL.
The Rockies hope Adams can help their lineup.
“I got just under 45 (at-bats) at the alternate-site games, so my timing and everything feels great,” Adams said. “The swing flow is good, my body feels healthy and strong. Feel good mentally. I’m ready to go.”
Adams, who showed a lot of potential early in his career with St. Louis, slashed .184/.216/.347 over 51 plate appearances in 16 games with Atlanta in 2020 before he was released in early September.
Adams said he had a good offseason, and even though few teams were interested in signing him, even to a minor league deal, he believes he can help the Rockies.
Black is hopeful.
“Matt will bring an element of danger, off the bench, each and every night against a bullpen,” Black said. “He’ll bring left-handed power, when he starts a game. He’ll be able to pick up (C.J) Cron at first, at times.”
Black also said Adams might get a start or two in left field.
Footnotes. To make room for Adams on the 40-man roster, the club designated right-handed reliever Ashton Goudeau for assignment.
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Also, struggling right-handed reliever Yency Almonte was placed on the 10-day injured list with a bruised right hand. He suffered the injury Wednesday night in San Francisco while trying to field a comebacker to the mound with his bare hand.
Right-hander Justin Lawrence, 26, who’s been on the Rockies’ taxi squad, replaced Almonte in the bullpen. Lawrence has yet to pitch in the majors.…Second baseman Brendan Rodgers, who’s been on the injured list since straining his hamstring during a stolen base attempt in a Cactus League game on March 13, began running again on Thursday. Rodgers has slowly been increasing his baseball activities.