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Senzatela adaptable to Rockies' needs

Right-hander could work out of bullpen or rotation; Parra dyes hair silver for Colorado's 25th anniversary
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

PHOENIX -- This season, Antonio Senzatela hopes he can be a right-handed version of Chris Rusin -- a Rockies bullpen weapon of many uses.

Senzatela, a member of last year's season-opening rotation as a rookie, posted a 1.62 ERA in five Cactus League games, plus had two appearances on the back fields during which he threw seven innings (plus three batters arranged to increase his pitch count), gave up no runs on three hits, struck out 11 and walked two.

PHOENIX -- This season, Antonio Senzatela hopes he can be a right-handed version of Chris Rusin -- a Rockies bullpen weapon of many uses.

Senzatela, a member of last year's season-opening rotation as a rookie, posted a 1.62 ERA in five Cactus League games, plus had two appearances on the back fields during which he threw seven innings (plus three batters arranged to increase his pitch count), gave up no runs on three hits, struck out 11 and walked two.

If there is an injury or a need otherwise during the first three weeks or so of the regular season, Senzatela, 23, would be an easy addition to the rotation. But Senzatela, who posted a 10-5 record and 5.03 ERA in 111 innings as a starter, had better numbers as a reliever. In 16 relief appearances last season, he recorded a 3.04 ERA with 23 strikeouts and eight walks, while learning much about preparing quickly to enter a game.

"I just make sure to play catch really good before the game and just keep my arm loose during the innings if I need a quick warmup," Senzatela said.

Video: COL@SF: Senzatela gets Posey swinging for the K

This spring, there was just one spot open to competition, and from the early stages, it appeared the Rockies thought Kyle Freeland (11-11, 4.10 ERA last year in 33 games, 28 starts) was more ready with his pitch mix and helped balance a rotation that has one other lefty (Tyler Anderson). All along, however, Senzatela displayed solid breaking pitches -- a curve and a slider, with the ability to manipulate each -- and an improving changeup.

There is some risk of underuse. Last year, German Marquez was the starter-type in the bullpen, but he wasn't used for the first eight games and had to go down to Triple-A Albuquerque for work before joining the rotation in late April. But with lefty Zac Rosscup slated to begin the season on the 10-day disabled list with a left middle finger blister that prevents him from gripping the seams of the ball, Senzatela is set for a role that could or could not be prominent. At either rate, manager Bud Black believes he adds talent to the staff.

"With Antonio, where he is in his career and how we need him in the big leagues, he's capable of doing that," Black said. "We saw good work when we moved him to the bullpen last year. We saw good work in the rotation early in the year. I think he's going to help us win baseball games.

"He's had a very good spring. He's thrown strikes. His arm is strong. His pitches are where they need to be. We feel good about Antonio helping us win games."

Silver anniversary
Outfielder Gerardo Parra showed up for Wednesday's workout at Chase Field with shiny silver hair, augmented with purple highlights. After all, it is the Rockies' 25th anniversary season.

"I know it's 25 years for the team, for the organization," he said. "I think that's a moment to make a championship. Something different, something new for the team is good."

Last year, Parra fulfilled a promise to dye his hair purple if the team made the postseason. He said he would do the same this year.

Keeping the gang together
The regular lineup is not much different from the one that helped the Rockies to the postseason last year, even though Carlos Gonzalez didn't ignite until August and Ian Desmond went to the disabled list three times. The only changes were Chris Iannetta taking over as catcher for Jonathan Lucroy (who came over at the Deadline) and Desmond fulfilling the original plan of playing first base (Mark Reynolds took the position during Desmond's injuries).

"The position player group, we knew we had to get a catcher and that came early with Chris," Black said. "Besides that, we knew that the position player group was going to be pretty much what it was last year. Then we signed CarGo and it really was like it was last year.

"What's encouraging for us is that we feel as though we have some depth at certain positions that we didn't have last year."

Tweet from @harding_at_mlb: What does #OpeningDay2018 mean to #Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez? Let him tell you. pic.twitter.com/YxCzgJYDua

Last year's season-opening bench consisted of catcher Dustin Garneau (now with the Athletics), infielder Cristhian Adames (now with the Marlins' organization), outfielder Stephen Cardullo (re-signed as a Minor League free agent) and infielder Alexi Amarista (signed by the Phillies after being released by the Tigers).

This year, the bench has last year's Opening Day catcher in Tony Wolters, infielder Pat Valaika (coming off a 16 pinch-hit RBI season), outfielder Mike Tauchman (coming off a strong 2017 in Triple-A and an eye-opening spring), and No. 2 prospect Ryan McMahon -- who figures to have semi-regular starting opportunities at first base.

Freeland's tuneup
Freeland, in line to pitch next Tuesday at San Diego, gave up one earned run in three innings against an Angels Triple-A lineup on Wednesday night. Freeland struck out four and didn't walk any while throwing 35 pitches.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Antonio Senzatela