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Desmond on an upswing, feels benefits of rest

Senzatela to make meaningful start on Mother's Day
@harding_at_mlb
May 11, 2019

DENVER -- Now that he feels better and the hits are coming, an interesting study would be figuring out what hurt Rockies center fielder Ian Desmond most for the season’s first month-plus. Was it his neck, which he says he “jacked up” banging into the wall in Miami during the

DENVER -- Now that he feels better and the hits are coming, an interesting study would be figuring out what hurt Rockies center fielder Ian Desmond most for the season’s first month-plus.

Was it his neck, which he says he “jacked up” banging into the wall in Miami during the season’s first series, or the other pains along the kinetic chain? Could it have been a quadriceps issue that forced him out of the lineup for a few days?

Or was it the fact his results didn’t come close to the quality of his contact? As he put it last month, “You can only say, ‘Good swing, bad result,’ so many times before it starts to wear on you.”

As for Desmond, well, who wants to dwell on past pain? He’s healthier, thanks to being part of a playing time rotation for the first time in his career. And a 6-for-11 tear, with a home run and two triples, in three games brought his season batting average up to .221 going into Saturday.

“There was a 7-8-day stretch where I felt awful,” Desmond said, “but for the majority of the season, I’ve felt good. I think we’ll generally feel like we’re doing better than we actually are. But I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball hard. I feel like I’ve been doing what I’ve wanted to do.

“But, ultimately, it is controlling the emotion. For me, if I can be in the right state of mind, have the right heartbeat, have the right focus, the rest of the stuff is going to be what it’s going to be. I feel like I’ve been in that good mental head space for a long time.”

Since April 25, Desmond is ninth among 343 Major League batters with 59.3 percent of his balls in play hit hard (minimum 10 balls hit into play), according to Statcast. Desmond struggled with hitting too many balls into the ground in the past and an audible contingent of fans still boo him whenever he does, but that derision is based more on stereotype than study. Statcast has his ground-ball rate at 40.5 percent, down from last year’s 61.6.

Beyond maintaining a swing he adjusted during the offseason so he could catch up to fastballs, Desmond bought in to the playing time reduction that allowed Raimel Tapia to turn hot during an increased number of starts and kept David Dahl in the lineup regularly, as well.

“It’s hard to say, because this is a phase of my career that I haven’t really experienced, getting as many days off,” Desmond said. “Throughout my career, I’ve always felt at the beginning of the season it’s like breaking in a glove. You go through that to get to the really good feeling.

“But playing center field at 33 years old, I’m not saying it’s something I can’t handle, but it’s taxing on my legs. I don’t think anybody playing at Coors Field will ever feel 100 percent. But I definitely am feeling better.”

Meaningful Mother’s Day
On Mother’s Day 2017, then-rookie righty Antonio Senzatela went five innings for a heavy-hearted win over the Dodgers. It was less than a year after his beloved mother, Nidya, passed away at age 52 from breast cancer in Venezuela. Senzatela gets another start on that special day, on Sunday against the Padres.

Senzatela used to wear a chain given to him by his mother. That piece of jewelry broke, but the tradition didn’t. He keeps it in his pocket as he pitches.

Senzatela said he kept his pink-accented gear from ’17 -- “My cleats, my jersey, the arm sleeve, everything I wore that day.” He’ll have more keepsakes Sunday.

From a baseball perspective, after not making it five innings in either of his last two starts, Senzatela believes he can do better by not trying too hard to put action on his pitches. He’ll be challenged on an emotional day.

“Every start is different,” Senzatela said. “I just want to do my best and help this team to win. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. I’ve just got to make quality pitches tomorrow.”

Not-so-crazy eight
Rockies catcher Tony Wolters has 69 at-bats from the No. 8 position in the batting order. His .304 batting average and .364 on-base percentage following the Rockies' 4-3 loss to the Padres on Saturday both are tops among National League hitters with at least as many at-bats from the eight hole.

The time will come
Because of three days off over an eight-day period starting Monday, the Rockies can go with their current four-man rotation until May 25.

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.