There’s less movement in the windup of right-hander Antonio Senzatela this season, as in more a leg lift than a leg kick, and quieter hands. There’s less of Senzatela himself, with some 15 pounds gone. The Rockies are fine with all that, as long as they see more of what Senzatela provided Wednesday night.
Senzatela was efficient in his plan and in his sharpness for all but one of his 80 pitches over five innings of the Rockies’ 7-3 victory over the Rangers in the second and final exhibition game at Globe Life Field.
The Rockies and Rangers will next meet Friday night in the opener of a 60-game regular season.
Senzatela, who lines up as the fourth starter in Colorado's rotation (scheduled to pitch Tuesday at Oakland), didn’t allow a baserunner until Danny Santana’s jam-shot single to open the fifth inning. With one out, Todd Frazier poked an elevated fastball over the right-field wall for a three-run homer. But Senzatela held the Rangers to two hits, struck out three and walked one.
“I feel pretty confident because of all the work I did on my body, my mind and everything, and I showed that,” said Senzatela, who often frustrated last year while going 11-11 with a 6.71 ERA in 25 starts.
Senzatela opened his outing by finishing off Shin-Soo Choo with a slider for a strikeout. In that inning, there was one problematic remnant of last year -- repeated foul balls that ran his pitch count to 22. But he was efficient thereafter. He leaned on his fastball the first time through the Rangers’ 10-man lineup -- they used two designated hitters to get extra at-bats -- then brought the slider and the curveball that he unveiled last year for the rest of his time.
At the end of last season, pitching coach Steve Foster and former bullpen coach Darren Holmes (now in the same post with the Orioles) proposed Senzatela's windup changes, and Senzatela immediately bought in. And manager Bud Black felt Senzatela could be more athletic and repeat his delivery better by slimming down, so he worked on his physical and mental conditioning with his trainer, Jose Fortuna, in his offseason home in Orlando, Fla.
“He worked with me -- my confidence, my body, everything,” Senzatela said. “He worked with me the past year. Every day, I’d go to work. We’d watch video, and he worked with me on my confidence.”
While Frazier's home run was a missed pitch, Senzatela said he feels his motion adjustments help his timing, where he releases his fastball out front more consistently and has better control of his secondary pitches.
“I trust it, and I feel pretty good,” Senzatela said.
Twice during Summer Camp, catcher Drew Butera kept inside pitches just fair enough for home runs to left field. Butera took that swing to the road Wednesday, hitting a three-run shot off Rangers lefty Kolby Allard in a four-run sixth inning. Butera, who was told he has made the team as one of three catchers (with Tony Wolters and Elias Díaz), is a .200 hitter in 513 career Major League games, but he hopes to build on experience and a strong 2019 at Triple-A Albuquerque (.300 in 67 games).
“I’ve had enough experience over my career backing up some great veterans in Joe Mauer [with the Twins] and Salvador Perez [with the Royals], and I'm using that experience to understand what work off the field goes into staying ready for when my name is called,” Butera said.
Is McMahon next?
The sixth inning began with Ryan McMahon’s lefty-on-lefty homer off Allard to straightaway center field. It was the type of swing that backed the idea that McMahon is poised for a breakout. Last year, his 47.7-percent hard-hit rate, per Statcast, ranked him 22nd among MLB players with at least 200 batted-ball events.
Now, it’s a matter of not fouling off or swinging through hittable pitches.
“I do think that he's entering a part of his career that's super exciting for all of us,” Black said. “We've talked about the growth of players and the time it takes to really solidify yourself and feel a certain way about your career. And I think Mac is in that spot now.”
Right-hander Wade Davis, who struggled through an oblique injury and finished last year with an 8.65 ERA, displayed regular-season-ready stuff when he struck out Nick Solak looking on four pitches in the eighth.
Davis was hurt in late May 2019, and he later admitted he came back too soon. One problem was that his cutter broke more horizontally than he wanted, partly because the injury made him rotate more toward first base than usual. His fastball also suffered.
But Davis finally felt healed in December, and his old motion came back. In Spring Training and Summer Camp, he stayed away from the cutter. He threw his knucklecurve for two pitches against Solak, then put him away with two fastballs that had glove-side movement, but not the type that was problematic last year.