Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Rockies News

Senzatela aims to carry '19 success into '20

Rockies right-hander expresses confidence as season gets closer
@harding_at_mlb
July 11, 2020

DENVER -- Baseball can sometimes grade a player on an odd and cruel scale. He believes he’s acing, en route to mastery, even. Then, the marks plummet. Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela will attest, as can many before him and many more to come, that baseball sets up the pain of

DENVER -- Baseball can sometimes grade a player on an odd and cruel scale. He believes he’s acing, en route to mastery, even. Then, the marks plummet.

Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela will attest, as can many before him and many more to come, that baseball sets up the pain of failure, and mixes in the pain of, well, pain.

But recover from the blows, and one can find knowledge that leads to production. Senzatela won National League Rookie of the Month honors for his April 2017 debut, and he went on to go 10-5 with a 4.68 ERA in 36 games (20 starts) that year. But in the two years since, he has spent time with Triple-A Albuquerque and on the injured list, although there was intermittent success.

Now, the expectation is for Senzatela to go from a naïve talent to a solid member of the Rockies’ 2020 rotation.

“Early in my career, I got successful in the first two months,” Senzatela said. “But this is the big leagues. You have to make an adjustment. I think I took too long to make an adjustment. But every season, I’ve tried to come in good, help the team to win.

“This year is going to be good.”

Senzatela arrived in 2017, with a fastball that averaged 94.3 mph and that he threw 72 percent of the time. The Rockies limited his innings (134 2/3), which helped keep opponents from truly getting the fastball in their sights. A changeup that worked so well when he was a prospect didn’t translate to the Majors, so he was limited to the fastball and slider.

The same mix appeared for Senzatela in 2018, when he went 6-6 with a 4.38 ERA in 23 games (13 starts). He worked around a right middle finger blister and right shoulder inflammation, and he did well enough to earn the Game 1 start in the NL Division Series against the Brewers (he allowed two runs on three hits in five innings in a no-decision).

Last year, Senzatela missed the beginning of the season with an infected right heel blister, and more trouble with his secondary pitches led to a late-July option to Albuquerque. He was 8-7 with a 6.29 ERA in 18 starts at that point. Part of the issue was Senzatela changed his changeup grip because it was irritating a nerve in his right middle finger.

Senzatela returned to the Majors last August, and signs of a breakthrough came in his final four starts, when he went 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA. He took a curveball that he threw while playing catch with German Márquez into game action, and he suddenly had a true offspeed pitch.

Then, science got involved, as readings from the Rockies’ newly installed “pitching lab” at their team complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., showed him adjustments that helped the spin and movements of his pitches. By Spring Training, Senzatela started showing savvy, as he posted a 1.80 ERA in two Cactus League starts earlier this year.

“Some of the things that we’ve picked up on, some of the analytical devices -- Rapsodo, Edgetronic -- we’ve turned that into some lessons for him,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “And he’s done a great job of absorbing that information and helping him create better spin on the ball.

“I’m excited to see how this plays out with his slider and his curveball. He had a little bit of a finger issue last year on the changeup. That is now not an issue. So that's a good thing, so we have a four-pitch mix.”

Márquez has high expectations for Senzatela, who continued as his throwing partner during the baseball shutdown. Both stayed in Scottsdale and, as with many Rockies pitchers and catchers, did socially-distanced baseball preparation.

“I feel so good for 'Senza,'” Márquez said. “He looks good. His stuff is still there. The body looks good. I think this year and next year are going to be amazing for that guy. He is a worker. He's going to be a successful guy.”

Senzatela’s normal offseason home is in Orlando, Fla., where his wife, Vanessa, kept him on a good eating plan to help him lose 15 pounds. He said that he kept up with his workouts by video with his personal trainer in Orlando to help him keep his conditioning.

Most important, Senzatela believes all his preparation will pay off.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot this offseason and during this quarantine,” Senzatela said. “It’s going to help me this year.”

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.