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Senzatela hopes to return to early form

Right-hander is second in rookie wins behind Freeland, has struggled since end of June
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- April and May seem long ago for Rockies rookie right-handed pitcher Antonio Senzatela. Nonetheless, he wants to turn back the clock.

Senzatela (10-4, 4.84 ERA) is second in the Majors in rookie wins, with teammate Kyle Freeland ahead by one. But since the end of June, Senzatela has struggled to the point that he has made just two starts and three relief appearances in the Majors, and he even started a game at Triple-A Albuquerque just after the All-Star break.

WASHINGTON -- April and May seem long ago for Rockies rookie right-handed pitcher Antonio Senzatela. Nonetheless, he wants to turn back the clock.

Senzatela (10-4, 4.84 ERA) is second in the Majors in rookie wins, with teammate Kyle Freeland ahead by one. But since the end of June, Senzatela has struggled to the point that he has made just two starts and three relief appearances in the Majors, and he even started a game at Triple-A Albuquerque just after the All-Star break.

After giving up four runs and six hits in four innings of a loss at St. Louis last Monday in his last start, Senzatela, 22, is being skipped this turn through the rotation. Righty Tyler Chatwood will pitch Wednesday night at home against the Mets. Still, Senzatela is one of four rookies -- along with Freeland, German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman -- in the starter mix as Colorado tries to solidify its playoff prospects.

Senzatela hopes to resume being a factor for the Rockies, who hold the second National League Wild Card spot despite depending on youth in the rotation.

"I think I need to get my confidence back," Senzatela, a Venezuela native who took advantage of injuries in Spring Training to unexpectedly make the team. "We're working on a throwing program and improving my fastball."

Senzatela held the Cardinals scoreless for eight innings of a 10-0 victory at Coors Field on May 26 to go to 7-1. Success has been rare since.

Video: COL@STL: Senzatela strikes out Fowler, side in 2nd

In his first 10 starts, Senzatela had a 3.19 ERA with 37 strikeouts to 18 walks and seven home runs against in 67 innings. In his six starts since (there were also three relief appearances), he has a 7.36 ERA with similar walk and strikeout totals (38 and 17). But Senzatela has given up 10 homers in 45 1/3 innings.

Interestingly, some advanced numbers say Senzatela isn't pitching much differently. Based on exit velocity and launch angle, his expected batting average through his first 10 starts was .258 while the actual batting average was .238, meaning his results were better than expected. But in Senzatela's past six starts, his luck has reversed -- a .254 XBA but a .296 actual batting average -- 42 points worse than expected.

But maybe calculations aren't the answer. Senzatela's issue comes down to something anyone watching at home can see. Does his fastball -- the pitch he relies on most, as he continues to develop offspeed pitches -- hit the target?

"You get to hit around a little bit and you feel as though you have to be perfect," manager Bud Black said. "And when you try to be perfect, a lot of times it's the opposite. You're not.

"Generally, he has to get the ball in better areas -- by that I mean if you tend to throw the ball outside, you can't have it end up inside. If you're going to throw it outside and you miss, you miss more outside. His misses have been a little bit bigger than what you need as a Major League pitcher."

The year has been a whirlwind. Senzatela pitched just 34 2/3 innings last year. He went home to Venezuela to be with his mother, who battled breast cancer before passing away, and he was put on the disabled list twice with right shoulder inflammation. Senzatela then underwent a diligent offseason throwing program and pitched with intensity all spring to make the club.

But Senzatela isn't claiming fatigue, and he sees no reason he can't regain his form.

"I'm working hard and learning this year," Senzatela said. "I can get back."

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

Colorado Rockies