Colorado Rockies spring training notebook: Senzatela’s changeup, RyMac’s versatility

Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela readily admits he is not a strikeout-type of pitcher, and that mentality has helped him mature into one of the foundational pieces for Colorado’s rotation.

Senzatela became one of the bright spots for Colorado in a disappointing 2020 season, going 5-3 with a 3.44 ERA and 153 ERA+. He twirled Colorado’s only complete game of the season (a 109-pitch, six-hit masterpiece at Coors Field on September 15 against Oakland), yet his strikeout totals dropped for the second straight year, falling from 6.9 per nine innings in 2018 to 5.5 in 2019 and 5.0 last year.

However, the walks dropped dramatically for Senzatela as well, dipping from 4.1 per nine innings in 2019 to 2.2 last season.

Senzatela said location has been the key to his success. It was last season as the placement and variety of pitches helped the 26-year-old right-hander to a career-low .337 xwOBAcon (expected Weighted On Base Average on contact).

“I want people to hit the ball on the ground,” Senzatela said. “To me, it’s more location than pitch (selection). I like to locate my pitches.”

Buoyed by a curveball that became a trusted part of his arsenal in 2020 (on the advice of fellow starter German Marquez), Senzatela became so valuable to the Rockies that he was named by as the team’s “untouchable player” after the 2020 campaign, partly because of his performance and partly because he is under team control through the 2023 season.

However, Senzatela told reporters on Saturday morning that he considers his changeup his second-best pitch.

“When I got to the Majors, I just tried to throw my fastball,” Senzatela said. “I lost my changeup. I lost the compass on it. Year by year, I’ve tried to find the grip and my confidence in it in the minors. Last year, I got my changeup back and I felt like, ‘OK, this is the pitch I wanted to throw.’ Now I feel like I can throw it anytime, no matter who is hitting.”

You can take a look at some of Senzatela’s work against the San Diego Padres last season below. Notice a variety of pitches thrown by Senzatela to keep the Padres off-balance at the plate, helping him keep hitters hit the ball in the “sweet spot” to a career-low 27.9 percent and barrel percentage at 5.4 percent.

The ever-versatile Ryan McMahon

Since debuting in August of 2017, Ryan McMahon has played all over the infield for the Rockies. With the departure of Nolan Arenado, it’s believed that McMahon will be Colorado’s Opening Day third baseman. However, Colorado manager Bud Black remains committed to McMahon playing anywhere where needed on a given day.

“You know, Mac has the ability to to play third, second, or first, so that gives us some comfort that if there’s an injury or if there’s a decision at the end of spring training where we have to pivot and go another direction, you know all those things come into play,” Black said on Saturday. “That’s a good thing that we feel that we can move Mac around, but the best scenario is the one where all players play well and we have hard decisions to make on who makes our roster.”

With the Rockies starting spring play tomorrow, it’s thought that the battle between C.J. Cron, Greg Bird, and Josh Fuentes at first and Brendan Rodgers and Garrett Hampson at second will provide enough depth for McMahon to focus on third base, a position where McMahon says he is very comfortable and has played the majority of his minor league career.