Twice this season, Germán Márquez stepped off the back of the pitcher’s plate and descended the mound with a look of dread on his face that seemingly exhausted the hopes of his teammates.
Though the news of Tommy John surgery for Márquez cuts short his 2023 — and puts in jeopardy his place with the Colorado Rockies for 2024 — the return of Antonio Senzatela has brightened the mood in the clubhouse.
Look no further than the club’s current four-game win streak and 7-6 record over the last 13 games. Colorado has also won two of their last three series and punctuated a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers with a comeback win on Thursday after trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the seventh.
The defense has looked incredibly crisp as of late and the bats have been surging at the plate with 41 runs over the last four games. And yet, the biggest key missing from the 12-20 start for the Rockies has been a lack of starting pitching.
“There are some games where we fell behind early, I mean early big,” Black emphasized. “We need our starting pitching to be consistent and keep us in games early through the first five innings and then things have a way of sort of smoothing out in a lot of ways. You have to starting pitch.”
Even without Márquez, Colorado gets a boost on Friday from one of their three workhorses who have been together in the rotation since Black has been manager. Kyle Freeland, Márquez and Senzatela have thrown more innings (2,534.1) than any trio since the start of 2017. The threesome that’s next closest — Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Julio Urías of the Los Angeles Dodgers — trails by nearly 500 innings.
“Having (Senzatela) here definitely uplifted a lot of guys seeing his face back around the clubhouse, knowing that he’s healthy and ready to go,” Kyle Freeland shared after Wednesday’s 7-1 win. “That was big for us.”
Senzatela will make his season debut on Friday at Citi Field against the New York Mets, his first start since exiting his Aug. 18 start in St. Louis with a torn ACL. “I’m really, really excited,” Senzatela shared less than 24 hours before his return. “It was a long way to get here again.”
Márquez will be watching, providing feedback and rooting for his close friend. It’s a role reversal that saw Senzatela on the sideline for eight months. Now, Márquez is taking over that role.
“It feels like he’s my brother,” Senzatela said of Márquez. “He’s got a tough surgery right now. I pray for him that he’s going to be okay.”
Senzatela and Márquez are more than just close acquaintances in a baseball family. Tied at the hip since the two pitched together in 2016 for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, a team without a ballpark that never played in the capital city during their inaugural season. Some home games took place at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn. while others were played in New Hampshire at Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, N.H. Countless other contests were played in various cities around the Eastern League with Yard Goats be considered the home team. In every scenario, it was hotel living.
“To see this guy back on the mound and doing his thing, I’m so happy for him,” Márquez said of his first roommate. “Always cheering for him.”
Now, the rest of the Rockies have part of their family back with the return of 28-year-old Senzatela.
“(Senzatela) always has a smile on his face and has done some really good stuff on the mound, too. I can’t wait to see him get out there and compete, throw strikes likes he always does,” Kris Bryant shared. “It’s just another presence in this clubhouse that has been around for a while. And a guy that when he takes the ball, we’ve got a good chance to win.”
The strong string of play has the team feeling like it can turn around one of the worst starts in franchise history.
Brenton Doyle’s promotion has given the club a jolt on the base paths. His four stolen bases are just one away from putting him into the top 10 in the National League. Randal Grichuk’s return to the lineup has produced a .500 batting average (7-for-14) with two doubles since being activated from the IL last Saturday.
There’s also hope Noah Davis, out with right elbow inflammation, can return close to the minimum 15 days. Tyler Kinley, the first of Colorado’s hurlers to undergo Tommy John surgery, is set for a return this summer.
For now, it’s Senzatela’s turn to come back and keep the momentum moving forward.
Colorado selected Austin Wynns off waivers from the Dodgers on Thursday. The 40-man roster is now at 39. (Note: Márquez has not been placed on the 60-day IL yet; once he does, the Rockies will have room to add another player to the 40-man.)
Wynns, 32, is a catcher with big league experience in parts of five seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles (N.L.).
Originally drafted by the Orioles in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, he was a high school teammate of Connor Joe at Poway HS (Cali.) and a college teammate of Aaron Judge at Fresno State.