Juiced baseballs in 2020? Too early to tell but Kyle Freeland says they feel different

Big-league hitters slugged 6,776 homers in 2019, breaking the record of 6,105 set in 2017. Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland served up 25 homers in 104 1/3 innings last season vs. just 17 in 202 1/3 innings in his stellar 2018 season.

Juiced baseballs? Freeland won’t go there, but there are some in the Colorado clubhouse who think the 2019 batch of baseballs hurt Freeland more than any Rockies pitcher.

Freeland, who’s scheduled to make his second start of the season on Saturday vs. San Diego, said it’s too early to predict if baseballs will fly high and far again this season. Freeland, however, said the baseballs do feel different.

“Obviously, only being one start into the season, I think it’s just going to take a little time to see,” Freeland said. “But in that one start, I did notice that the consistency of the baseballs is a lot greater than it was last year.

“I remember there were times last year when I would get a baseball and it felt great in my hand and the seams were the right tension, they were tight and they were how I liked the baseball. Then that ball would get fouled off and I would get another baseball from the umpire and it would feel completely different. Not even close. So the one thing I noticed in my one start was the consistency of the baseballs and how it felt better in my hand.”

Change of habit. Right fielder Charlie Blackmon follows a strict routine — before, during and after games. It’s one big reason why he’s a four-time all-star. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has altered his day-to-day business.

“For example, we can’t watch video at all during the game,” Blackmon said before Friday night’s game against the Padres. “I can’t make any in-game adjustments based on video, which I was assured would not be the case. And that has been taken away, which is really important to me.

“So that’s a big adjustment that I’m having to make. But at least I’m still playing baseball, and I keep things in perspective.”

Oberg update. Right-handed reliever Scott Oberg, on the 10-day injured list with a lower-back strain, threw live batting practice Thursday and came away in good shape. He’s hoping to rejoin the bullpen soon but offered no specific timetable.

“That BP went well and I recovered well again today,” Oberg said. “I believe I have another live BP soon and we’ll go from there.”

Footnotes. The Rockies had about 80 cutouts of Rockies players in the seats behind home plate for Friday night’s home opener. Freeland caught a glimpse of them and was thrilled that Ian Desmond, who chose not to play this season because of COVID-19, was part of the group. “I was happy to see they got Desmond in there a few times so he can be in the stands supporting while he’s at home with his family.” … Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association jointly announced Friday that both games of doubleheaders will be seven innings in length for the duration of the 2020 season. The change begins on Saturday. Blackmon is not pleased. “My personal opinion is maybe different than what we ended up with.”

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