Shaw healthy, earning Black's trust again

Rusin nearing return; Senzatela set to throw off mound

August 8th, 2018

DENVER -- The Rockies signed righty for three years and $27 million for innings other than a mop-up seventh in a 10-2 loss -- his role against the Pirates on Tuesday night.

After throwing a scoreless inning with a strikeout and one soft base hit, as part of solid work in his last eight appearances, it's possible manager Bud Black will move him back into a role protecting leads.

Recently, righties , , and have worked with the lead, but a stretch of close games could wear out that foursome. Shaw's ability to face right- and left-handed hitters when pitching well could be of use as the Rockies try to push into the postseason. A poor start to this season has left Shaw 3-5 with a 6.60 ERA and a career-high-tying eight homers against, but Shaw handled key innings in recent years for the Indians, and his experience will be needed for the Rockies.

Shaw missed 13 games in late June and early July with a right calf strain, and he took the time to correct some delivery issues, but in the eight games back he has a 2.25 ERA and .226 batting average against.

"Overall since he's been activated, the bigger picture for me is better quality pitches -- most of them are down in the zone," Black said. "If you look at the bigger scope, he's been much better than what we saw prior to going on the DL with his calf strain. We have to stay there."

After giving up his last run in a 3-1 victory over the Athletics on July 27, Shaw has made his last three appearances in losses by three or more runs.

"He's throwing the ball better, and depending on the usage of the other guys, I'm not opposed to throwing Bryan," Black said. "He's been there and done that. I know the pulse will be in the right spot. He's ready for that."

Rusin close to returning

After three outings at Triple-A Albuquerque to rehab from plantar fasciitis in his left foot, lefty Chris Rusin will be evaluated for a return as early as Thursday.

Rusin, after a standout season in 2017, went to the disabled list with a 6.81 ERA. As is the case with Shaw, the Rockies need him. With Jake McGee making location mistakes -- granted, with improved velocity -- the Rockies need a left-handed option in close games.

Even with his struggles, Rusin has held lefty hitters to a .219 batting average, with 22 strikeouts in 73 at-bats. In three games at Albuquerque, lefty hitters were 1-for-4 with a strikeout and a walk. Ideally, however, Rusin can fill a number of roles -- from one batter to multiple innings.

"The three games, even though statistically combined [5.40 ERA at Albuquerque] might not look great, we were encouraged by a lot of things we saw," Black said. "Chris' stuff plays both against left- and right-handed hitters. But if he's throwing his good cutter-slider down and away to the lefty and the moving fastball in on their hands, it's pretty good stuff."

Senzatela nearing the mound

Righty (4-3, 4.56 ERA), who went on the disabled list over the weekend with right shoulder inflammation, played catch Wednesday for the second straight day, and said he plans to resume throwing off a mound Thursday or Friday if cleared by the training staff.

Senzatela reported higher-than-usual soreness after his last start, when he held the Cardinals to one run in six innings in a 3-2 Rockies loss at Busch Stadium last Thursday. But treatment has him feeling much better.

struggled Tuesday in his return to the rotation, but if he finds his form there will be six starters on the roster (assuming no further injuries). Senzatela, who began the season in the bullpen, said there has been no discussion of his role when he returns.

Senzatela battled a blister on his right middle finger in early July, but in his last two starts he has given up two runs in 11 2/3 innings. In those games, he has 11 strikeouts and six walks. The improvement has been his ability to bounce back from a negative occurrence. A key bases-loaded strikeout after an error from catcher Tony Wolters is an example.

Sometimes Senzatela will react to a bad occurrence with a roll of the head or a stomp, but the composure returns quickly.

"I just try to get in my mind every time, 'Make a quality pitch and get out of the inning,'" Senzatela said. "Just compete, maintain the game close. I try to stay in the moment, I breathe real quick and move on to the next pitch."