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Rockies trio competes for final rotation spot

Murphy hopes to spread hitting knowledge effectively
February 14, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Having two pitchers of notable accomplishment and one of immense promise is a luxury for the Rockies. But it creates a decision nonetheless for manager Bud Black.Barring injury, left-handers Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson and right-handers Jon Gray and German Márquez should hold four of the spots, in

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Having two pitchers of notable accomplishment and one of immense promise is a luxury for the Rockies. But it creates a decision nonetheless for manager Bud Black.
Barring injury, left-handers Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson and right-handers Jon Gray and German Márquez should hold four of the spots, in some order. That leaves the final spot primarily to a contest among three right-handers -- Chad Bettis, the club's most-experienced pitcher; Antonio Senzatela, who earned a postseason start last year; and Jeff Hoffman, who sustained a right shoulder injury last spring and saw minimal Major League action.
"What I find reassuring is the quality of the guys that we potentially have to choose from to make out our rotation," Black said.
Bettis began 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA through nine starts before blisters arrived last season, almost inexplicably, and didn't go away. But his 2.38 bullpen ERA late in the year, and the development of a slider, opened possibilities.
"I just proved to myself that I was able to do both successfully," Bettis said. "Regardless whether I get one of those five spots or am in the bullpen is irrelevant at this point. I'm here to win and I want a ring."
• Bettis focused after two difficult seasons
Bettis turns 30 on April 26 and is under a one-year, $3.35 million contract.
Senzatela has shown he can dominate a game with his fastball for two seasons as both a starter and reliever, but he realizes he needs more consistent secondary pitches. His offseason project was creating deception.
"I just want every pitch to look like my fastball … I'm working on that," said Senzatela, 24, whose Statcast™ release point chart is instructive -- you don't see much green because the changeup and four-seam fastball tend to look the same. The breaking pitches show greater variance.

According to Statcast™, Senzatela lowered his use of the four-seam fastball from 72 percent as a rookie in 2017 to 64 percent last season. He throws a changeup and curveball, but his slider is his best offspeed pitch.
"His fastball plays, and we've seen of his curveball, his little slider, his changeup, we've seen flashes of big league quality pitches out of those three; now it's just a matter of consistency," said Black, who plans to collaborate with Senzatela on exactly how the offspeed pitches will be employed.
Hoffman, who was part of the trade that sent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays, revamped his mechanics, mental awareness and strength training to push for a rotation spot this year. He made six appearances last season for Colordo, five of which were out of the bullpen. Hoffman registered a 9.35 ERA for the season.
"The first time I had ever thrown in the bullpen was in the big leagues, so it was a trial-by-fire kind of deal," Hoffman said. "If I had some time to adjust, I don't think it would be an issue and I could do whatever they ask me to do. But [as a starter], that's how I view myself. That's how I'm going to attack my plan."
• Hoffman sees uptick in velocity
The Rockies didn't call Hoffman up at the end of last season because they didn't need a starter. Will Hoffman, who has one year of Minor League options, have to be a starter to make the team, after last year's spotty bullpen work? Black referred to Hoffman's 2018 as a "small sample size."
Leadership through dialogue
First baseman Daniel Murphy brings experience and knowledge that could help teammates, but he doesn't want to be overbearing.
"I really enjoy talking hitting, but I'm never going to force my views on someone because I always feel like I want it to be a dialogue," Murphy said. "If it ever turns into a monologue, then any information that you're trying to get through is not ready to be received."
Arenado's swing
Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado went to Los Angeles Tuesday to participate in a pro-am event at the Genesis Open at the Riviera Country Club. Video of his swing on Twitter brought him good-natured ribbing.

"When I watch it from the side view, it's pretty ugly," Arenado said. "Guys were making fun of me about it, and I kind of deserved it because it's pretty ugly. It works, man. I got down to a 4 or 5 [handicap] this offseason -- that was my lowest on my handicap."

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