Kyle Freeland sidelined at least a month with strained shoulder

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The Colorado Rockies were fearing the worst when left-hander Kyle Freeland bent down after tossing a pitch in an exhibition game and grabbed his shoulder.

So it was promising news when an MRI revealed no further damage than a strain in his pitching shoulder, which will sideline him for at least a month. Freeland will start the season on the injured list, but he could be back in the rotation a lot sooner than initially anticipated.

“The findings showed that based on the degree of the strain, it looked pretty promising for Kyle here moving forward,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “The doctors are pretty convinced that there is a strain but he will overcome this and be pitching this season and hopefully again within a timetable that gives him a lot of starts as we get into hopefully May.

“Again, we just don’t know. But they’re encouraged by it.”

Freeland threw a pitch to start the third inning and then immediately walked to the side of the mound. He buckled in discomfort, dropped his glove and grabbed just underneath his shoulder. The scene hit Black hard.

“You feel sick,” he said. “Anytime you see that type of reaction from a player, and a pitcher grabbing his arm, you think worst-case scenario.”

Freeland’s mood was instantly lifted by the MRI report from the medical team.

“He exhaled some,” Black said. “He’s ready to start rehabbing right away. He had treatment today, some light stretching and he’s moving it around. I saw him – he had an ice pack on his shoulder. Just got to let the injury quiet down. Then, from there you can pick up the strengthening and the therapy.”

Freeland is coming off a virus-shortened 2020 season in which he made a team-high 13 starts. He was 2-3 with a 4.33 ERA.

The candidates to take his place in the rotation are Chi Chi Gonzalez, Dereck Rodriguez and Ryan Rolison. Black is still working out a plan ahead of the season opener on April 1 at Coors Field against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In addition, the Rockies caught a break with righty Jon Gray, who took a liner off his pitching hand during a game. Black said the ball glanced off Gray’s glove, which took some of the steam off of it. It did catch Gray on the side of the palm and on the wrist.

“He’s doing fine,” Black said.

In other injury news, infielder Brendan Rodgers has been making steady progress from a right hamstring injury. Rodgers has been riding the stationary bike and playing catch with no pain. He soon will resume taking ground balls and hitting in the batting cage.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.