Aaron Cook needed to face only one batter before he felt at ease on the mound in his first start of spring training.
Cook retired Felipe Lopez en route to two scoreless innings before the Colorado Rockies lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-3, Wednesday in front of a crowd of 3,327, less than half the capacity for Hi Corbett Field.
“When your first guy steps in you don’t know where the ball is going to go half the time. To get that first out is kind of refreshing,” said Cook, who was 16-9 last season. “You just take a deep breath and say, ‘Let’s keep going from here.”’
Cook allowed only a single to Chris Young while facing seven batters. The sinkerball pitcher forced four groundouts and had one strikeout.
“To get that first strike and to get my sinker working makes it easier to relax and continue on with the rest of the day,” Cook said. “It felt good being out there.”
Cook emerged as an All-Star a year ago with a career-best 16 victories and a 3.96 ERA. The groundball pitcher, with the fifth lowest groundball/fly ball ratio in the majors since the start of the 2005 season, gave up only one fly out, to Chad Tracy.
“I can look back at what I did last year, but that is all in the past,” Cook said.
Shortstop Augie Ojeda had an RBI double.
Diamondback pitcher Billy Buckner, competing for one of the final bullpen spots, got the first chance to impress the Diamondbacks. The right-hander threw two innings in a starting role, allowing three hits and one run.
“It is huge. You only get so many opportunities here in spring training,” Buckner said. “Every time out there you have to do your best and try to put up some good innings.”
The lone run he allowed came after Joe Koshansky walked and Clint Barmes doubled to drive him home.
“I like my fastball command. I felt I was getting ahead of the hitters and putting myself in a good position,” Buckner said. “I want to keep the ball down and throw good quality strikes and try to get as many groundballs as possible. That is my game.”
Juan Gutierrez, also competing for a final roster spot, allowed two runs and three hits, while striking out two in two innings.
Brad Hawpe went 2-for-3 for Colorado. The Rockies had doubles from Barmes, Troy Tulowitzki, Chris Iannetta and Carlos Gonzalez.