Almost a month ago, I said “Baseball is a game in which anything can happen,” in an article about the Rockies’ pitching rotation competition. The “anything” referenced in that sentence was the possibility of both Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland making the Rockies rotation.
Well, Rockies fans, baseball came through once again, and “anything” happened. In part due to Spring Training injuries, but also due to standout Spring performances, both Senzatela and the Denver-native Freeland made the Rockies Opening Day Roster as starting pitchers.
My piece from a month ago kept its focus on pitchers Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, and Chris Rusin. The Rockies’ season will begin with Hoffman in Triple-A Albuquerque, Rusin on the Disabled List, and Marquez in the bullpen as a long reliever. While this competition was intriguing throughout Spring Training, it would have been truly heated had Chad Bettis and Rusin stayed healthy. Unfortunately, the Rockies were forced to fill another rotation spot because of the loss of Bettis, who may miss the entire season due to ongoing chemotherapy. Further, Rusin was kept out of most of Spring Training by a muscle strain.
There is good news for the Rockies amidst this. Senzatela and Freeland had good numbers throughout Spring Training. Freeland in particular had an excellent WHIP and ERA, leading all Rockies’ pitchers. Depending on how Bud Black sets the rotation, Freeland could start the Home Opener against the NL West rival Dodgers. The series against the Dodgers, who I (and many others) fully expect to win the division, will be a great test for Freeland. Freeland will look to force batters into hitting for weak contact, a good strategy for any pitcher. Both Freeland and Senzatela work hard to limit the number of walks they give up.
Senzatela had a good showing in Spring Training as well. He led the Rockies in strikeouts and posted a decent WHIP. That said, he also led the team in earned runs, innings pitched, and losses. Those numbers assuredly don’t matter in the way that WHIP and strikeouts matter in Spring Training though, so hopefully Senzatela will be able to control those aspects of his game when it really matters.
Further, Rusin pitched in a Minor League outing on the last Friday of Spring Training. Starting the year on the 10-Day DL will be a setback, but only a minor one. Rusin could be back in time to pitch against the Dodgers next weekend. If the Rockies feel he should be in the starting rotation, either Senzatela or Freeland will (presumably) move to the bullpen. The setback to Chad Bettis means that more young pitchers will get time in the Majors. This should give them opportunities to get their feet wet and learn what more to work on throughout the year.
The injury bug has bitten the Rockies often this Spring Training. Two injuries shook up the rotation battle. Thankfully, many of the injuries appear to be short-term and recoverable. The Rockies were chosen by many analysts as a potential dark horse team this year. That possibility requires some luck to fall the Rockies’ way. Overall, these injuries have made the luck less likely to fall. That said, if any two of Freeland, Rusin, Senzatela, and Marquez compete at a high level this year, the Rockies could still make a run at the postseason.