Sean Bouchard was not the Rockies’ rookie headliner.
The attention, and yes, the hype, followed first baseman Michael Togila and shortstop Ezequiel Tovar. But as the Rockies finish up their season and continue to load up their lineup with rookies, it’s Bouchard who’s been the steady, heady force.
“He’s been playing pretty regular here lately,” manager Bud Black told MLB.com prior to Friday night’s game against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. “Not unlike Connor (Joe), there’s an on-base tool via the walk and he controls the strike zone. He doesn’t expand the strike zone a lot, he doesn’t chase.”
Entering Friday’s game, the left fielder had drawn a walk in each of his last eight games, tied for the fourth-longest streak
in franchise history. It was the longest streak since franchise icon Todd Helton drew a walk in nine consecutive games in 2008. Bouchard also is the first Rockie since Dexter Fowler in 2013 to draw at least 11 walks over an eight-game span.
But it’s not just the ability to draw walks that have made the Rockies pay close attention to the 26-year-old Bouchard, a ninth-round draft choice out of UCLA in 2017. He entered Friday’s game slashing .333/.508/.489 with 17 walks and 16 strikeouts in 18 games since his recall from Triple-A Albuquerque on Aug. 30. His .508 on-base percentage since his call-up ranks second in the majors behind Yankees slugger Aaron Judge’s .558 OBP.
Bouchard has some sneaky pop in his swing, too. He hit a two-run homer Thursday night at San Francisco, his second long ball of the season. His first big-league homer came at Cincinnati on Sept. 2.
Black likes Bouchard’s short, fluid swing.
“It’s not complicated and it’s pretty direct to the ball,” Black continued. “That’s what you want to see at this level. He’s really got that going for him.”
Considering how well he performed to begin the season at Triple-A Albuquerque, the Rockies had no choice but to give Bouchard a big-league look. After all, he hit .300 with a 1.038 OPS while launching 20 homers, driving in 56 runs and swiping 12 bases in just 69 games.
Bouchard made his Rockies debut on June 19 vs. San Diego at Coors Field. But he played in just three games before he strained his left oblique and landed on the injured list.
Bouchard has certainly improved his chances for a long look during spring training 2023.
“He’s shown himself very well, especially in this recent run of games,” Black said. “That shows that this on-base potential is real.”
Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (9-11, 4.63 ERA) at Dodgers RHP Mike Grove (1-0, 4.02)
7:10 p.m. Saturday, Dodger Stadium
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM
Freeland — making his 31st and final start of the season — would like to finish on a high note and erase the memory of his last outing. The Padres ripped the lefty for seven runs (six earned) on nine hits over 2 2/3 innings, his shortest this season. Freeland is 5-4 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 starts since the All-Star break. He’s faced the Dodgers four times, going 2-2 with a 6.33 ERA. In his lone start at Dodger Stadium, on July 4, the Dodgers beat Freeland when he gave up four runs on six hits across 5 2/3 innings. In 20 career starts against Los Angeles, Freeland is 5-9 with a 4.53 ERA, including a 1-4 record and 3.81 ERA in eight starts at Dodger Stadium.
Grove, making the sixth start of his career, is facing the Rockies for the first time. Grove, a fill-in starter, earned the win in the Dodgers’ 4-1 victory over St. Louis last Sunday. He allowed one run on three hits and one walk with three strikeouts in five innings. The 25-year-old was pulled after throwing only 69 pitches because the heart of the Cardinals’ lineup was due up for the third time.
Trending: The Rockies started six rookies on Thursday night at San Francisco: left fielder Sean Bouchard, right-hander Ryan Feltner, designated hitter Elehuris Montero, catcher Brian Serven, right fielder Michael Toglia and shortstop Ezequiel Tovar. It was the most rookies in a Rockies starting lineup since Sept. 12, 2019, vs. St. Louis. The franchise record for rookies in a starting lineup is seven, done four times.
At issue: Colorado was swept at Dodger Stadium from July 4-6, continuing a trend of futility in the City of Angels. The Rockies entered Friday’s game with a 9-28 record at Dodger Stadium since 2018.
Sunday: Rockies RHP German Marquez (8-13, 5.12) at Dodgers LHP Tyler Anderson (15-4, 2.54), 2:10 p.m., ATTRM
Monday: Rockies RHP Jose Urena (3-8, 5.24) at Dodgers TBA, 8:10 p.m., ATTRM