Matt Koch gamble pays dividends for Colorado Rockies

Matt Koch of the Colorado Rockies has a history of doing the unorthodox in his professional baseball career.

The decision by the right-handed reliever to elect free agency in the fall of 2022 after spending a year in the Seattle Mariners organization has ended up reaping big dividends for the Rox.

Matt Koch has the fifth-lowest ERA in the National League since his debut with the Colorado Rockies on June 27.

Despite pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field, Koch has responded with his best professional season to date compiling a 1.57 earned run average — tops on the team among players with at least 15 appearances.

Having allowed just four earned runs in 23.0 innings entering action of August 19, Koch has the fifth-lowest ERA in the National League since his debut with the Rockies on June 27.

“I’m just happy to have an opportunity,” the 32-year-old said after having signed a Minor League contract with Colorado on November 29, 2022.

“I’m getting older; I’ve been around awhile,” added Koch, who was a third-round draft pick by the New York Mets in 2012 and has spent time at the MLB level with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Mariners.

“It was nice coming into this clubhouse. These guys have been so welcoming to me. It’s just been a lot of fun to be a part of this group and have an opportunity to help the team.”

Koch, who played collegiately at the University of Louisville, did not allow a run in his first 10 appearances with the Colorado Rockies (from June 27-July 1) and has notched 19 scoreless outings in 22 appearances this season.

Having pitched for Arizona from 2016-19, Koch was well aware of Coors Field’s spacious outfield and mile-high altitude that tends to favor hitters.

“It’s well know that it (Coors Field) is a hitter’s ballpark,” he said. “But I know if I throw my pitches where they need to be thrown and I execute what I can do, I know I can get some ground balls. We have a great defense that, if you make them (opponents) put the ball in play, a lot of the balls are going to be caught.”

Opposing hitters are batting just .160 this season against Koch, who has three holds and has finished six games.

The native of Cherokee, Iowa, has compiled a 2-0 record with Colorado, claiming his first win of the season August 8 at Milwaukee. The victory was his first win in the Majors since June 14, 2018.

A year ago, Koch appeared in four relief outings for the Mariners, marking his first  Major League appearances since 2019.

He spent the 2021 campaign in Cleveland’s minor league system after making the decision in the pandemic-shortened 2020 Major League season to play for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan.

Colorado Manager Bud Black sees Koch enjoying a “resurgence” in his career since joining the Blake Street Bombers.

“There’s been a resurgence and it’s good to see,” Black recently told media members. “He’s touched the big leagues four different years. There’s been more than glimpses of success. He has made Major League starts (14 for Arizona in 2018) and has pitched well. I think this is a time for him to solidify himself and go forward.

“Our critical eye tells us that he’s making pitches,” the manager added. ‘He’s throwing the ball well. He comes every day with a great demeanor, a veteran poise to him that you’d like to see out in the bullpen to go with (Brent) Suter, (Tyler) Kinley, (Justin) Lawrence … So, the more guys you have like that in the bullpen, the better off you are.”

For his part, Koch downplays the idea of his success with the Rockies as being a renaissance.

“I’m not really trying to think about it too much,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy each day as its individual day, enjoy my time around these guys and go out there and help the team win.”

Considering his penchant for the unorthodox, look for Koch to continue to flourish  in ways that one might not expect as he contributes as a member of Colorado’s relief corps.