Riley Pint, Rockies’ pitching prospect, trying to get control of career

Riley Pint, Rockies' pitching prospect, trying to get control of career

This past summer, Riley Pint returned home in search of himself.

Nearly every evening, Pint and his father, Neil, played catch near their home in Overland Park, Kan. With the minor league season shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic and Pint’s career in a precarious place, their goal was simple.

And absolutely essential.

Pint, a pitcher so talented the Rockies made him the fourth overall pick of the 2016 draft and gave him a $4.8 million signing bonus, was a mess. He needed to find a way to relax, rediscover his pitching motion and begin throwing consistent strikes.

For the first month, Neil was forced to scramble to catch many of his son’s errant throws. If it wasn’t a case of the yips, it was getting close to it. Slowly and steadily, Pint began to unearth the skills that made him the most-coveted high school pitcher in the country when several scouts clocked his fastball at 102 mph.

“He’s in a much better place now than he was last year,” Neil said. “His delivery is much smoother and he’s comfortable on the mound. I think we figured some things out.”

Some things, but certainly not everything. And the Rockies soon will be faced with a major decision regarding Pint. They must add him to their 40-man roster by Nov. 20 or risk losing him in the Rule 5 Draft. Pint, 22, is currently pitching for the Rockies in the Arizona Instructional League. The results have been mixed. In his first outing, he gave up a home run on his first pitch and then struck out the next three hitters. In his second outing, the wildness that’s plagued his pro career crept back in.

“The process is all about getting Riley healthy innings, which he’s getting right now,” said Zach Wilson, Colorado’s assistant general manager of player development. “There are going to be inconsistencies because it’s been so long since he’s pitched and he’s working on a lot of things.”

In his four professional seasons, Pint has pitched just 156 innings, including only 26 innings over the past two years combined. In 2018, he battled forearm stiffness and later an oblique injury that limited him to 8 1/3 innings between short-season Boise and low-A Asheville.

In 2019, shoulder tendinitis shut him down in June and when he did get on the mound, the numbers were disastrous. Used as a reliever for Asheville, Pint posted an 8.66 ERA across 17 2⁄3 innings (21 appearances). He walked 31 batters — which translates to 15.8 walks per nine innings — and also hit six batters and threw 18 wild pitches.