Senzatela putting himself in mix for roster spot
Right-hander would give Rockies another starting, long-relief option
MESA, Ariz. -- With right-hander Antonio Senzatela continuing his strong spring with a dominant start in a Minor League game on Thursday, the possibility of the Rockies carrying six starter types -- with one of them beginning the year in long relief -- has become a realistic option.
Manager Bud Black said the team is discussing such a structure. It would be similar to how the Rockies started last season, with righty German Marquez beginning the year in the bullpen. That experiment ended because of a good problem: The rotation pitched so well that Marquez wasn't used for eight days, so he was sent down to Triple-A Albuquerque on April 9.
Senzatela has a 1.62 ERA in five Cactus League games. While Chad Bettis was pitching well in Thursday's 4-2 victory over the Athletics (5 2/3 innings, four hits, two runs, four strikeouts), Senzatela was starring in a game vs. the Cubs' Class A Advanced squad, with 10 strikeouts in six-plus innings.
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Whether Senzatela is one of the five starters or an extra, the Rockies could begin the year with six. Black noted that a starter's stamina would hold about three weeks if he's carried in the bullpen after having his pitch count built properly.
"We like the fact that we have six guys right now building their pitch count, getting innings and preparing for the season," Black said. "We will go with a five-man rotation, so our decision will be whether we keep one of these fellows in the bullpen or not."
It could create a bullpen crowd. The Rockies face a decision with lefty Zachary Rosscup, who profiles as a specialist. Rosscup is out of Minor League options and would have to be exposed to waivers to be sent down. Righty Scott Oberg can be sent down without being lost, but Oberg was an important part of the late-innings bullpen during last year's successful run to a postseason berth.
Bettis wasn't happy with his command Thursday, especially with his fastball, one of which was hit for a solo homer by Marcus Semien.
"My command was OK today. The last couple of starts it was really good, so that regressed this outing," Bettis said. "But I know I'll be able to get back to it really fast. I'm not too worried about it."
Black wasn't the least bit worried.
"I want to give him a little more credit than he gave himself on the fastball," Black said. "It's coming out good. For him, maybe it was elevated a bit too often, but overall it was a solidly pitched game."
Bettis went to the bullpen after leaving the game and took his pitch count up to 105.
Running, not trotting
Rockies shortstop Trevor Story is known better for trotting the bases -- he has hit 51 homers in 242 regular-season games over his two seasons -- than stealing them. But he's not shy about taking off.
After reaching on a second-inning error, Story stole second and beat Jonathan Lucroy's throw with room to spare. In the Rockies' search for even more runs -- they led the National League last year -- manager Bud Black has said he would like for the stolen base to become a bigger part of the game.
After tying for the second-fewest steals in the NL in 2017, the Rockies were mulling early in the spring the possibility of dropping leadoff man Charlie Blackmon to third in the lineup and inserting base-stealing threats at the top.
However, the re-signing of Carlos Gonzalez to hit in the middle of the lineup put Blackmon back at leadoff. Blackmon (43 steals in 2015), No. 2 hitter DJ LeMahieu (career-high 23 steals in 2015) and Gonzalez (20 or more steals from 2010-13) have passed that phase of their careers, so the Rockies simply don't have steal threats at the top of their lineup.
Story has just 15 steals in his two big league seasons, but he has a powerful, wide receiver-like gait.
"Any way to help the team out, get in scoring position," Story said. "With our confident lineup, we feel like if we have guys in position, we're going to get them in. It doesn't matter where I am, I'm just looking to get to the next base."
Power showing up
Blackmon, who homered 37 times last season, opened Thursday's game with his third spring homer. Catcher Chris Iannetta, expected to hit in the No. 8 hole, hit his fourth spring homer and doubled in a run.
Up next: Lefty Kyle Freeland, trying to secure a rotation spot, will start for the Rockies against the Reds on Friday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Game time is 2:10 p.m. MT, and the can be viewed on MLB.TV and MLB Network.