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Season-ending injury for Senzatela brings with it many of questions

Patrick Lyons Avatar
August 21, 2022

The injury on Thursday in St. Louis that saw Antonio Senzatela helped off the field turned out to be just as bad as it looked.

Possibly even worse.

The Colorado Rockies placed the 27-year-old on the injured list with a left ACL tear on Friday that effectively ended his 2022 season.

During his pregame media scrum, manager Bud Black announced that Senzatela would likely miss between 6-8 months with the injury.

“It’s a tough one for Antonio,” Black shared. “I feel bad for any player that the season comes to an end due to injury. And a lengthy one, too.”

The timetable for recovery means Senzatela could be ready by Opening Day 2023, but the Rockies will not be rushing their homegrown starting pitcher.

“He’s a great worker like a lot of our starting pitchers are, very committed, very dedicated,” the sixth-year skipper said of his no. 3 starter. “He’ll follow the ACL protocol. Our guys will keep track of him, for sure.”

Following a five-year, $50.5 million extension during the offseason, Senzatela was having a segmented season due to a pair of stints on the injured list that cost him a handful of starts.

Jul 1, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela (49) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

First was a lower-back strain in late-May before right shoulder inflammation put him on the shelf for nearly three weeks in early-July.

Senzatela finishes with eight quality starts in 19 games and a 5.07 ERA to go along with a 1.69 WHIP.

His best outing of the year was in San Francisco on June 8 when he twirled six innings of one-run ball, striking out a season-high six. A good performance, undoubtedly, but it ranks as the 18th-best game – according to game score – of his six-year career.

Looking through his tenure with the Rockies, the 2022 season has to rank up there with 2019 as his least effective.

Following a start in Game One of the 2018 National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018, Senzatela began the next season on the IL with a blister infection on his right heel.

He made 18 consecutive starts to a 6.29 ERA before being optioned to Triple-A. After the month-long demotion, Senzatela was given the ball seven more times (7.96) to even worse results close out the season.

Senzatela hardly struggled as much during this campaign, but his 90 ERA+ and 5.3 strikeouts per nine rank second-worst in his career. 

Though he isn’t among qualified starters due to missing a few starts, Senzatela would rank second-worst among MLB’s 59 qualified starters in K/9. 

Another troubling figure is his 13.0 hits per nine. Considering he was better than his career averages for home runs allowed, it stands to reason some bad luck could be the cause for this inflated figure.

With 40 games still remaining in the season following consecutive wins over the San Francisco Giants, Colorado may need to find some solutions for their rotation over the final six weeks of the regular season, if not for next season.

Kyle Freeland (4.82 ERA) and Germán Márquez (5.05) have made all 23 starts when Black has called upon them.

José Ureña (4.71) has done the same nine times since debuting in purple on July 6 while Ryan Feltner (5.88) rounds out the back half of the starting staff. 

Senzatela’s replacement on Thursday, Austin Gomber (5.86), began the year as the club’s no. 4 starter, but has been removed from the rotation on two occasions already.

Chad Kuhl made a rehab start with Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday as he looks to rebound from a right hip flexor strain. He went five scoreless frames, allowing three hits and walking four while striking out six. 

Beyond those familiar names, only Karl Kauffman seems a potential candidate for promotion should more setbacks strike the Rockies.

Karl Kauffman, Hartford Yard Goats (2021). <https://www.milb.com/hartford>

The 25-year-old right-hander was taken in the 2nd round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of the University of Michigan.

Kauffman threw significant innings (130.2) that year for the Wolverines and was shut down for the rest of ‘19. 

The pandemic wiped away his 2020, so he wouldn’t make his professional debut until two years after being drafted.

After just two starts at High-A Spokane, Kauffman moved up to Double-A Hartford where he pitched to a 7.35 ERA in 19 games.

He repeated the level to open 2022 and showed immense growth before moving up to Triple-A on July 6 where he’s pitched to a 5.57 ERA in the incredibly hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

In the offseason, both Ureña and Kuhl will be unrestricted free agents the depth will potentially take another hit.

Ryan Rolison and Peter Lambert should be much healthier, but a lot of bloom is off the rose with these former top prospects after consecutive injury-plagued seasons. 

There are younger options at Double-A and lower, but this type of leap to the majors isn’t typical for the organization. 

Senzatela, like all individuals on a roster, is just be one piece of the puzzle worth pondering for 2023. 

But if he’s more like a domino than a puzzle piece, then a lot more will be riding on his recovery.

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