Austin Gomber impresses in first Cactus League start for Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As far as first impressions go, Austin Gomber showed up just fine on a breezy, chilly Sunday afternoon at Salt River Field.

The Rockies’ new left-hander, the key player in the Nolan Arenado trade with St. Louis, pitched two scoreless innings in the Cactus League opener, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out one in Colorado’s 5-2 win over the Diamondbacks.

“First of all, I like the tempo of his game,” manager Bud Black said. “It was upbeat, it was aggressive. He showed a four-pitch mix today, and for me, it looked better in person than it does on video.”

Gomber’s best sequence came in the second inning. After Kole Calhoun led off with a bloop double to left, Gomber struck out Nick Ahmed.

“I was able to throw a good fastball, a good backdoor curveball, and then we went to the curveball again and he fouled into the dirt,” said Gomber, who threw 25 pitches, 19 for strikes. “And then we were able to throw something I’ve been working a little on — a back-foot kind of slider there for the strikeout, which was probably the best pitch I executed today.”

Black has made no secret of the fact that he’d like to see Gomber clinch the fifth spot in the rotation with a strong showing this spring. Gomber’s four-seam fastball topped out at 92.9 mph.

“He mixed his pitches and he showed ‘pitchability,’ ” Black said. “There is an aggressiveness to him and he’s on the attack.”

Butterflies. Josh Fuentes, who started at first base Sunday, was a little bit keyed up for the game, even though it was just a spring exhibition.

“Personally, I’m always nervous for games,” he said. “I don’t know what it is. I’ve always been that way, since high school.”

The nerves didn’t get in his way. Fuentes batted 2-for-2 in his five innings of play.

Bring on the noise. A COVID-restricted crowd of 2,100 showed up Sunday but the fans weren’t exactly vocal, at least not at the beginning of the game.