Osborne: From Field to Hitting Coach
By Jack Etkin
Zach Osborne, a former middle infielder in the Rockies organization, was the final addition to the Rockies minor-league coaches, assuming the role of hitting coach at Rookie Level Grand Junction.
A former middle infielder, Osborne, who turns 28 on April 2, was drafted in the 15th round in 2012 out of the University of Tennessee. He played five seasons in the Rockies' organization, rising to Triple-A Albuquerque for two games in 2015. Osborne was released at the end of spring training last year.
Rockies player development director Zach Wilson called Osborne “a traveling man,” a reference to his 2013 season in which he played 39 games at Grand Junction, two at short-season Class A Tri City, 13 at low Class A Asheville and four at high Class A Modesto _ and 2015 when he played 48 games at Modesto, 41 at Double-A New Britain and those two at Albuquerque.
“Every time he walked into a clubhouse, people were excited to see him,” Wilson said, “and he had the respect of the clubhouse because of how he worked, how he played the game and really his personality. He was a Rockie in all those ways, so he had an advantage for that reason and also because he knows our culture, he knows our standards. He knows how we go about our business.”
Osborne’s mentors in the Rockies’ organization included staff members like Darrin Everson, Warren Schaeffer and Anthony Sanders. Wilson said their role includes not only developing players but developing younger staff members, too.
“He hooked onto those guys as a player,” Wilson said. “I’m sure he’ll do the same as a staff member. Does he have a lot to learn? Sure he does. This is all brand new for him. But he’s going to be able to take it all in, and he’s got the advantage of being a Rockie.”
On the minor league fields, right-hander David Hill has befun throwng fastballs off a mound as he plows forward in an extended comeback from surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome in August 2016 that forced him to miss the entire 2017 season.
The Rockies drafted Hill, 23, in the fourth round in 2015 out of the University of San Diego. He showed promise at short season Class A Boise that year when he went 0-0 with a 3.08 ERA in eight games, seven starts, and had a 1.40 ERA in six second-half starts. Hill moved up to Asheville in 2016 and went 4-4 with a 4.48 ERA, the last on June 26 before he ultimately was operated on by Robert Thompson, a noted vascular surgeon in St. Louis. Thompson’s baseball clients include former Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook in September 2004, one month after Cook left the mound at Coors Field short of breath and dizzy due to blood clots that had developed in his right shoulder.
After watching Hill throw two bullpen sessions, Wilson said, “It’s fastball only now, but it’s aggressive. The delivery and the arm action looked good. He’s not holding back at all and the ball’s coming out of his hand really well. He got hurt, and he just hasn’t been able to completely recover from that. It took much longer than everybody was thinking. But he’s in a great place right now.” Hill will begin the season in extended spring training as he continues to build up arm strength and get in games there before resuming his career.
Lastly, left-handed reliever Ben Bowden, who didn’t pitch last season because of a bulging disk in his back, is healthy and throwing bullpen sessions. Bowden, 23, is about three weeks behind the other pitchers and will complete his comeback in extended spring training when the minor league clubs break camp and start the regular season.
The Rockies drafted Bowden in the second round in 2016 out of Vanderbilt. He began his professional career that summer at Asheville and went 0-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 26 games and 15 walks and 29 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings.