Raimel Tapia finding his groove, focusing on plate discipline

The Arizona series earlier this week might have been the start of something big for Raimel Tapia.

After starting three of the first four games of the shortened season but managing just two hits in eleven at-bats, the outfielder seemed to fall out of favor with Rockies manager Bud Black. Tapia found himself coming off the bench against San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle, but following a pinch-hitting appearance in game one of the series against the Diamondbacks, he was returned to the starting lineup. Tapia took advantage, racking up five hits in seven at-bats with two walks, two runs scored, and two RBIs.

“I’m going into each game looking for my pitch,” Tapia said. “And not looking for what they’re trying to get me (with) but looking for what’s gonna work best for me and looking for good results.”

Part of Tapia’s recent success comes from better plate discipline, something he’s been working on with hitting coach Dave Magadan and assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar. Tapia said the staff has stressed patience. There’s also been an emphasis on forcing opposing pitchers to throw the pitch Tapia wants, instead of playing into their gameplan.

“They’re trying to make sure I’m staying true and making sure I’m getting those right pitches,” he said.

The Rockies’ ability to use a designated hitter has also benefited Tapia. The outfielder’s overthrow of the cutoff man in the fifth inning was part of the Rockies’ collapse late against Arizona Wednesday, but his abilities at the plate have given Tapia another chance to stay in the lineup.

“He’s a natural hitter,” Black said. “Every player wants to play, every player wants to get at-bats every day but there’s a little bit of a performance-based operation going on here right now and we need guys who can contribute. We popped (Tapia) back in there thinking that he might be able to give us a little cause other guys maybe aren’t swinging great and he responded.”

Tinoco trade frees roster spot. The Rockies added a new arm to their organization late Thursday night after a trade with the Miami Marlins, sending right-hander pitcher Jesus Tinoco to South Beach for another righty, Chad Smith.

The 25-year-old Tinoco made his MLB debut in 2019 and made 24 appearances out of the bullpen, but couldn’t lock down a place after going 0-3 with a 4.75 ERA. He was on the Rockies 40-man roster, but hadn’t appeared in 2020.

Colorado now has an open spot on the roster as Smith, 25, has never pitched above the Double-A level. The 11th round draft pick out of Ole Miss intrigues Black, who praised his arm and breaking ball. “This was more about the opportunity to get a 25-year-old pitcher with a good arm and big potential, potentially to come to us and work with our group, and see what he can bring with his stuff.

Footnote. Utility man Chris Owings has a sore hamstring. There is no timetable for his return.