The Rockies announced Wednesday that left fielder Kris Bryant has once again been placed on the 10-day injured list due to a lower back strain. The IL placement is retroactive to May 23. Bryant missed nearly a month after being placed on the IL with this same injury in late April. He’d only been active for two games before being scratched from Monday’s contest and will now be out until at least June 2. Right-hander Ryan Feltner is up from Triple-A Albuquerque to take Bryant’s spot on the active roster.
Clearly, this isn’t the way that either Bryant or the Rockies envisioned his seven-year, $182MM contract beginning. The former National League Rookie of the Year, National League MVP and four-time All-Star has appeared in just 17 of the Rockies’ 42 games thus far and has yet to connect on his first long ball with the Rox. He’s hitting .270/.342/.333 through his first 73 plate appearances — well above league average in the first two of those three slash stats — but the lack of power and lack of time on the field are both glaring.
There’s no indication from the team as to just how long Bryant is expected to be shelved in this latest stint. It’s worth noting, however, that when Bryant originally hit the injured list back in late April, the Rockies suggested that he could be back on the field in a couple weeks’ time. Instead, as first reported by Nick Groke of The Athletic, Bryant required a cortisone injection a couple weeks into that original IL placement and was ultimately out of action for nearly four weeks. The Rox have a daytime tilt against the Pirates coming up in just under three hours, and it stands to reason that manager Bud Black will offer more information prior to gametime.
Colorado raced out to a 10-5 start to the 2022 season, igniting some hope among the fanbase that perhaps a turnaround of the team’s woeful 2019-21 performance was at hand. They’ve gone 10-17 since that start, however, and have been in a particular funk of late (just four wins in their past 15 games). The resulting 20-22 record and their -28 run differential are both the worst marks in the National League West.
With Bryant back on the shelf into early June, the Rockies will likely to turn to a combination of Connor Joe, Yonathan Daza and Sam Hilliard to cover the workload in left field. Joe has been in the lineup regularly, often as a designated hitter, but could see some extra outfield work now. Daza and Hilliard, meanwhile, figure to see an increase in at-bats with Bryant out.
In a strict platoon deployment, the left-handed-hitting Hilliard would see the bulk of the work, but he’s hitting just .160/.255/.296 to Daza’s .350/.404/.400 thus far in 2022, so perhaps the latter will receive a larger look. Daza’s batting line is being propped up by a .384 average on balls in play that he’s unlikely to sustain, but his minuscule 9.0% strikeout rate so far certainly gives him a chance to remain productive even as that BABIP trends back toward his career levels. Notably, Daza is starting in center field today against a right-handed opponent. Joe is in left field, with Hilliard available off the bench.
As for the 25-year-old Feltner, he’ll make his fourth career start later today when he takes the mound in Pittsburgh. His first three haven’t gone particularly well — he’s surrendered a dozen runs in 11 1/3 MLB innings to date — but the 2018 fourth-rounder is out to a solid start in Triple-A this year. Through 38 1/3 innings, Feltner carries a 3.76 ERA with a 30% strikeout rate, 7.5% walk rate and 38.9% ground-ball rate. With Antonio Senzatela on the injured list — also due to a back strain — Feltner could see an increase in his opportunities in the coming weeks, particularly if he shows well in today’s spot start.