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Senzatela embraces bullpen role

Righty found success in Spring Training as a starter
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

PHOENIX -- Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela insists his heart is in his current role.

"I'm a bullpen guy," Senzatela said Saturday, a day after experiencing the unfairness that sometimes comes with the role.

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PHOENIX -- Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela insists his heart is in his current role.

"I'm a bullpen guy," Senzatela said Saturday, a day after experiencing the unfairness that sometimes comes with the role.

View Full Game Coverage

After posting a 1.62 ERA in Spring Training, while competing as a starter, Senzatela made the Opening Day roster, but didn't get a rotation spot. After lefty Tyler Anderson struggled in 2 1/3 innings (seven runs, five hits, four walks) against the D-backs on Friday, Senzatela entered in the third, stranded two runners and pitched a spotless fourth. Two runs on three singles, just one hit hard, left Senzatela with a loss.

"If I start the game, maybe I can throw three more scoreless innings," Senzatela said. "I threw well yesterday. I just missed a couple fastballs and they got me. But I wake up this morning, go out and compete."

Manager Bud Black kept Senzatela as a long reliever. Often a starter who is filling a bullpen role doesn't enter during an inning, since he would need more warmup time than a full-time reliever. But Senzatela began loosening during the five-run first inning that saw Anderson walk three, and Anderson struggled through deep counts and frequent pickoff moves to first base. So Senzatela had plenty of time to prepare.

"He hung in there," Black said. "They nicked him for a couple of runs, but overall he threw the ball well. The fastball was crisp. He mixed in a couple breaking balls."

In addition to being used in relief, Senzatela is on a long-term project to develop his changeup, which would go with a solid fastball and breaking pitches that act as a curve, slider or something in between.

Black believes the changeup can be developed over the next two or three seasons, as Senzatela grows as a pitcher.

If there are injuries, he could find himself in the rotation, changeup or not. But Senzatela, 23, who started 20 of his 36 appearances last year (10-5, 5.03 ERA), believes the best route now is to think as a reliever.

Estevez close to ramping up

Righty Carlos Estevez (left oblique strain) said he should be throwing simulated games by next week and expects to head out on a Minor League rehab assignment not long afterward.

The time will come

Black passed on the opportunity to start No. 2 prospect Ryan McMahon at first base. Ian Desmond homered during a 2-for-4 performance Friday night, and Black has liked Desmond's swing.

Video: COL@ARI: Desmond homers to right, brings in two

And over the next 2 1/2 weeks, the bench players will have plenty of opportunities.

"We have 17 games in a row starting Monday, so you'll see the other guys mixed in there to get their season going with some starts, but I think it's important to get your [core] guys going early," Black said. "And I like the way Desi swung the bat the first couple of games."

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