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Spokane Indians

‘It’s a dream come true’: Colorado’s top pitching prospect Chase Dollander set to make Indians debut

By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Indians pitcher Chase Dollander throws during practice at Avista Stadium on Tuesday, ahead of Friday’s High-A West opener.

One of the top pitching prospects in minor league baseball will make his professional debut when the Spokane Indians open their season Friday.

The Colorado Rockies have high hopes for Chase Dollander, who earned the opening night starting nod for the franchise’s High-A affiliate. The right-hander will throw his first pitch for the Indians at 6:35 p.m. against the Vancouver Canadians at Avista Stadium.

“It’s a dream come true, and I’m excited to see how it all unfolds,” Dollander said earlier this week. “Obviously, I wanted to be the opening night starter, and I knew I’d put in the work and did what I needed to have that role. It’s a huge honor.”

Dollander was selected by Colorado out of the University of Tennessee with the ninth overall pick in the 2023 MLB draft. Since then, his name has soared up the prospect rankings.

He is the top-ranked pitching prospect and the No. 2 overall MLB prospect in the Rockies’ organization, according to Dollander is the No. 49 overall prospect in the minors, and the eighth-ranked right-handed pitcher.

“I like to embrace that kind of stuff,” Dollander said. “I’ve always been taught that you have to take it head on, take it for what it is, and realize you still have work to do. I could be named the top overall prospect, the top pitching prospect, whatever, but there’s still a lot I need to accomplish. As long as I’m not in the big leagues, there’s still a lot of work to do. Even when I get there, there’s still a lot of work to do. Baseball is a game of constantly finding ways to get better.”

Spokane’s staff has been impressed with Dollander’s pitching arsenal and “professionalism,” per Indians pitching coach Blaine Beatty, who worked with Dollander throughout spring training over the past couple of months in the Phoenix area.

“His coachability stood out to me,” Beatty said. “There are some guys with a profile like that, not necessarily in this organization, but I’ve had (highly rated prospects) like that who say, ‘This is my stuff and this is what I’m going to the big leagues with.’ You know you have to chisel away at that with some guys. He didn’t come across like that at all. He’s very respectful and knows he has to make adjustments and mature as a professional.”

Dollander pitched consistently in approximately 15 innings for the Rockies during spring training, and tossed a scoreless inning during the Spring Breakout prospects game last month.

“I learned a lot about reading hitters and things like that,” Dollander said. “My first outing was a little wishy-washy, but that can happen in your first outing of pro ball. I was kind of amped up, but the rest of them were a lot better. Coaches said they were happy with where I’m at. I worked on a lot this spring – getting my slider where I wanted it, getting my mechanics where I wanted them. I feel like I accomplished that.”

Dollander spent much of the preseason fine-tuning his secondary pitches. He boasts an “elite-level fastball,” Beatty said. Dollander can throw pinpoint strikes in the mid-to-high 90s.

“I love my fastball,” Dollander said. “It rides really well at the top of the zone and I can still throw strikes at the bottom of the zone. I get a lot of swings and misses on it.

“They want me to pitch my game, establish my fastball early in counts and games, then play off that. If I’m throwing strikes, it’s gonna be hard to hit me.”

Dollander also mixes in sliders, curveballs and change-ups. Developing his secondary pitches has been an emphasis for the Indians’ staff.

“He’s very unique in that he has four pitches that he can throw for strikes,” Beatty said. “One of the (priorities) in pro ball will be him learning to utilize the secondary stuff even more, other than the elite fastball he has.”

Beatty said Dollander has shown maturity and stayed committed to his routine in the face of big expectations. Giving Dollander the opening night start “shows the confidence the organization has in him,” and Dollander has embraced the pressure.

“He knows and accepts the challenge,” Beatty said. “He has the maturity to handle it. … He knows the value of his stuff and how to use it.”

A Georgia native, Dollander began to rise up draft boards during his final high school season in 2020, but his scouting was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He turned down an undrafted free-agent offer and chose to enroll at Georgia Southern – one of only two Division I schools to extend an offer.

Dollander turned in a promising season as a freshman (4-3 with a 4.04 ERA), then transferred to Tennessee.

As a sophomore, he emerged as one of the nation’s best pitchers. Dollander earned SEC Pitcher of the Year honors. He went 10-0 with a 2.39 ERA, and struck out 108 batters while yielding just 13 walks. Dollander led the Volunteers to the No. 1 ranking entering the postseason, but they fell in the Super Regionals.

Dollander fought through some consistency issues as a junior but was still effective, posting a 7-6 record with a 4.75 ERA and 120 strikeouts against 30 walks. The Volunteers advanced to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, where they lost to eventual champion LSU.

Still, Dollander had proven enough to pro scouts. He was drafted in the first round and signed for a full-slot value of about $5.7 million, per multiple reports.

“I immediately broke down in tears,” Dollander said of draft night. “I put in so much work to become who I am now.

“I’ve learned so much throughout this experience, how to handle different situations in life and baseball. It’s been a huge learning opportunity for me, and I couldn’t be more excited to show everyone who I am, and that I can pitch at the major league level eventually.”

Dollander saw some action in the instructional Arizona Complex League in 2023, then spent a couple of months sharpening his game in Florida ahead of spring training. The Rockies assigned Dollander to Spokane on Sunday.

“I feel like I came out (of spring training) way better than I came in,” Dollander said. “I’m just really excited to get things going. The past few days here in Spokane have been awesome. … I’ve been through a lot this past year. I feel like I’m as ready as anyone.”

Spokane pitcher Chase Dollander, a first-round selection in last year’s draft, has drawn the starting assignment when the High-A West season begins Friday at Avista Stadium.