Reliever Rusin still working to find 2017 form

Senzatela building up pitch count as starter at Triple-A

May 12th, 2018

DENVER -- Rockies lefty reliever Chris Rusin knows he must correct his delivery and correct his aggressive mindset to emulate the success he had last season, when he was one of the Majors' most versatile bullpen options.
On Friday night, Rusin's inability to quell a Brewers surge -- an inherited runner scored, and he gave up a run himself on a hit and a walk -- was part of the Rockies' collapse in their 11-10, 10-inning loss. Since returning from the disabled list (left intercostal injury), he has yielded four runs on three hits and three walks in four innings.
When Rusin started slowly this season, he found his rhythm for four solid appearances before the injury, then has slumped upon his return. Rusin entered Saturday's game vs. the Brewers with a 5.94 ERA, 13 strikeouts and an eyebrow-raising nine walks in 16 2/3 innings. Last season, he posted a 2.65 ERA in 60 appearances covering a National League-high 85 innings, with 71 strikeouts against just 19 walks.
Rusin said missing the time messed up his rhythm a little.
"I was working on the delivery at the beginning of the season and moving toward it before I got hurt," said Rusin. "Obviously that's not an excuse, just trying to work hard to get back at it."
The Rockies usually use Rusin as a bridge to the late innings, but they've also used him as a lefty-vs.-lefty fireman. Neither role is conducive to walks.
"I've just got to start pounding the zone instead of walking guys and falling behind, because I'm at my best when I'm attacking," said Rusin, who said he feels no lingering pain or tentativeness from the injury.
After Friday's game, Rockies manager Bud Black said he planned to "get to the bottom" of Rusin's struggles. In a meeting Saturday, Black said he focused mostly on Rusin's mindset.
"His arm feels good, I don't see any difference in his fastball, the action to his secondary pitches," Black said. "Whether he's just off a little bit delivery-wise, which is keeping him from throwing good, quality strikes we're accustomed to, our conversation today was really of the mindset of strike one. If it's not strike one, strike two. He's self-admitted a little bit too many 2-0, 3-1, 2-1 counts. We've got to flip those counts.
"We need him to be the Chris Rusin that I saw last year, that I've seen in flashes this year. His expectation is that, too."
Senzatela continues to build his pitch count
Since being optioned out of the Rockies' bullpen and into Triple-A Albuquerque's rotation, righty has given up one run on six hits, with 12 strikeouts and three walks, in nine innings over two starts. On Thursday at Reno, Senzatela pitched five scoreless innings, struck out four and gave up four hits and two walks while reaching 73 pitches.

Wanting to make sure Senzatela is an option in case the Rockies need a starter, the Rockies will have him make another Triple-A start rather than look to insert him back into the bullpen.
"I don't have a crystal ball as to what's going to happen," Black said. "Let's get him closer to that 90-100 [pitch] barrier, so if something happened, we'd feel good about it."
Gonzalez on comeback trail
Right-hander , who was added to the Rockies' 40-man roster before last season but suffered a right elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, threw a scoreless inning Friday night for Class A Lancaster in his first rehab assignment appearance. Gonzalez, a hard thrower who was working on developing secondary stuff before the injury, is on the 60-day disabled list.