SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – Last year, just seeing Riley Pint in a baseball uniform was a good story. Now Pint has a chance to reward the Rockies for their faith.
The Rockies drafted Pint with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan. But after a losing spell, which led to him leaving the sport during the 2021 season, Pint is in his first major league camp at age 25.
Right arm capable of a 100+ mph fastball is intact. He struck out 58 in 45 2/3 innings combined at Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque. Just as importantly, her smile and his confidence seem here to stay.
It is unusual for a pitcher with a powerful build and strong arm, coupled with his draft status and $4.8 million signing bonus, to be considered an underdog of the field. But here we are. His closest pint to the Majors was three appearances last season in Albuquerque.
Since the middle of last season, the Rockies have added veterans Dinelson Lamet, Pierce Johnson and Brent Suter to the bullpen. Some notable young pitchers received their first opportunities last season, and depth on non-rosters has improved. But Pint’s raw stuff makes him a candidate to make noise at camp and be an option later if he doesn’t fight for a spot on Opening Day.
“It took a long time, especially for me to get to this point,” Pint said.
Pint walked 134 and struck out 21 more in his first 166 professional 2/3 innings. Lui then informed the Rockies that he would be leaving during the 2021 season. But director of player development Chris Forbes, who accepted the job during the ’21 season, kept the dialogue open. Pint returned last season for minor league camp.
Walk (31) and hits (eight) were still high last season, but Pint was effective enough in Hartford to earn a promotion to Albuquerque. The Rockies quickly shut down Pint with a right forearm issue, but Pint said it was arm fatigue and there were no lasting effects.
Not even the arm problem could slow down his 2022.
“I basically came onto the pitch every day with a good attitude and a big smile, and things started working out and going in my favor,” said Pint. “And with the group of guys from Hartford, it was easy to have fun. I know a lot of guys in this locker room now, so it’s going to be a pretty smooth transition.
Pint’s bullpen sessions drew raves.
“He’s someone who, if he’s right, is a wildcard,” said Doug Linton, Rockies minor league pitching coordinator. “I hope he’s right, because I love this guy. Every sign has been electric.
“What we see on the side is that everything is more coherent. She has a better idea of where the shots are going than he does. He’s going to be 95-99. That’s where he will live. His breaking ball is dirty. He’s casting more double stitches, but it’s a double stitch from the bottom. And the change of him is also good. He’s getting it.
Pint is getting rid of the negatives that can come from expectations. He doesn’t mind being a player fans can relate to due to his difficult times. On the court, he has been paying attention to closer Daniel Bard, who overcame control and anxiety issues that kept him out of the Majors from 2014-19, but is now the Rockies’ closer and a member of Team USA in the World Classic Baseball.
“I was a kid and a lot of things were new, foreign to me,” Pint said. “I didn’t know how to deal with those failures, or just not doing well. For me, it’s just going to be learning, continuing to grow, and proving myself a baseball player.
“At the end of the day, to be the best I can be, I have to play loose and free. This is what the Rockies are giving me the ability to do: just be who I am and compete to the best of my ability, which I know is good enough. It’s great to have them in my corner.”