Christian Friedrich thought an exhibition game against the Rockies would be a good challenge heading into the Texas League season. Instead, he turned out to be a challenge for Colorado, pitching six hitless innings as the Tulsa Drillers defeated their parent club, 5-3, on Wednesday.
Friedrich, MLB.com's No. 50 prospect, faced one batter over the minimum, shutting down a Rockies lineup that included Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton. After walking the first two batters of the game, the 23-year-old left-hander retired the next 17, striking out seven.
"Tremendous," Rockies manager Jim Tracy told MLB.com. "After the first two hitters, he was absolutely tremendous."
"When you look at the linuep card before the game and you see Tulowitzki, CarGo, [Jason] Giambi, Helton, it can be a little intimidating at first," Friedrich said. "But it's nice to know that you know those guys and you've had conversations with them in Spring Training. It takes the pressure off. Obviously, I had some of my best stuff tonight and it's nice just to build confidence headed into the season."
Friedrich was invited to Major League Spring Training for the first time this year, but he was among the first players assigned to Minor League camp. The 2008 first-round pick was 3-6 with a 5.05 ERA for the Rockies' Double-A affiliate last season, when injuries limited him to 18 starts.
Health concerns were the biggest reason Friedrich was lifted after six innings.
"You always want to stay in the game and be competitive as an athlete," he said. "The Rockies have told me my main goal is to be healthy. It's the first game I've thrown that many pitches. I'm happy I did well out there."
The Drillers, playing together for the first time this season, carried the no-hitter into the ninth, when Chris Nelson hit a leadoff double against Casey Weathers, another former first-round pick. The big league club rallied for four more hits and plated three runs.
"It would've been neat [to get the no-hitter]," Friedrich said. "I wasn't mad it got broken up, I was happy to get the win. I know these guys [the Rockies] are really good."
Wilin Rosario, MLB.com's No. 41 prospect, excelled for the Drillers, both at the plate and behind it. In addition to calling most of the game, the 22-year-old catcher went 3-for-3 with a solo homer and two runs scored, falling a triple short of the cycle. He hit .285 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs in 270 at-bats for Tulsa last year.
"I've never had better chemistry than I did with him the entire game," Friedrich said of Rosario. "Last year, we were sometimes not on the same page for a couple games. After his home run, he looked at me and said, 'We're getting it started.' It's a fun relationship."
After seeing Friedrich dominate firsthand, some Rockies went out of their way to congratulate him.
"Some of the guys came around and they were telling me good job and stay healthy, and hopefully we'll see you soon," Friedrich said. "It was nice to hear."
Added Tracy, "This game says a lot about this organization and the talent and depth we have."