Kyle Freeland spent six weeks in the minors trying to rediscover the form that made him one of the top pitchers in the National League last season.
The Colorado Rockies will see if that made a difference when they send the left-hander to the mound against the Cincinnati Reds in the second game of the three-game series in Denver on Saturday night.
Freeland went 17-7 last season with a 2.85 ERA, finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting, but the Denver native had a couple rough outings in April before everything fell apart in May and he was demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Freeland (2-6, 7.13 ERA) went 0-2 in six starts in May with a 10.17 ERA. Most alarming, he gave up 11 home runs in those appearances. He had allowed 17 home runs in each of the past two seasons.
"I think I was slightly predictable," Freeland told reporters before the Rockies won the series opener 3-2 on Friday night. "I think hitters had a pretty solid book and game plan going into games against me. At the same time, I was leaving a lot of mistakes over the middle of the plate. You put those two together, and more than likely the ball is going to be flying out."
Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters that he reminded Freeland of the emotions he'll likely feel when he takes the mound on Saturday.
"Kyle just needs to be Kyle Freeland and go out and pitch his game," Black said.
Freeland has made three career starts against the Reds and is 2-1 with a 6.11 ERA in those games.
The Reds are planning to send veteran right-hander Tanner Roark to the mound in their bid to end a three-game losing streak. Roark will also be looking to bounce back from a poor outing leading up to the All-Star break.
Roark (5-6, 3.51 ERA) matched his career high by allowing three home runs on July 2, a 5-4 win against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers in 11 innings. He came into the game allowing 0.735 home runs per nine innings, third best in the majors.
"I didn't execute my pitches like I wanted to on those homers," he told reporters afterward. "I'm not completely mad, but I'm not satisfied."
Roark tends to heat up this time of year, owning a 27-14 career mark in July and August, compared to 42-46 during the other months.
Roark is 1-2 against the Rockies in his career with a 3.71 ERA.
Sonny Gray had success against the Rockies on Friday night, allowing one run in seven innings before reliever David Hernandez gave up solo home runs to David Dahl and Daniel Murphy in the eighth inning of the 3-2 loss.
Murphy has more experience against Roark than any other player on the Rockies. They played in the National League East at the same time for three seasons while Roark was with the Washington Nationals and Murphy was on the New York Mets from 2013-15. They were then teammates on the Nationals for 2 1/2 seasons.
Murphy is 4-for-20 in his career off Roark with one double and one strikeout.
--Field Level Media