Three hours before the Rockies took on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, Antonio Senzatela was on his feet in front of his locker and fiddling with a bat. The 22-year-old righty quietly chatted with teammate German Marquez inside the Rockies’ clubhouse and took slow-motion cuts.
Nothing about the sequence stood out — the ways big leaguers kill time before a game is often mundane — except for one thing: The bat was pink.
Mother’s Day is today. The MLB celebrates the holiday by incorporating pink into their jersey schemes and using pink Louisville Sluggers. Senzatela is scheduled to start when the Rockies finish their three game-set against the Dodgers at 1:10 p.m. in what figures to be an emotional day.
Senzatela’s mother, Nidya, died after battling stomach cancer last summer. This is Senzatela’s first Mother’s Day without her.
“She was a big baseball fan,” Senzatela said Friday. “Every game I played, she was there.”
Senzatela flew back to his hometown of Valencia, Venezuela, last year to be with her as the illness worsened. He was playing for Colorado’s Double-A affiliate at the time, the Hartford Yard Goats.
Nidya, who died at 52, would never get to see her son make the jump from the minors to the big leagues.
Senzatela earned one of the available spots in the Rockies’ starting rotation this spring, despite having never pitched at the Triple-A level. To say that he’s exceeded expectations seven starts in would be putting it lightly. In 44 innings, he’s allowed 14 earned runs. That comes out to a 2.86 ERA, which, if you adjust for ballpark conditions, ranks 10th among all starting pitchers.
“He just locates his fastball, throws hard, competes and works quickly,” second baseman D.J. LeMahieu said. “He’s just doing a really nice job.”
Senzatela relies heavily on his fastball. He throws the pitch 76.7 percent of the time. He’ll also mix in a slider and on rare occasions a changeup. So far, he’s not striking many opponents out — with 20 in those 44 innings — but his approach has nonetheless been effective.
On Wednesday, Senzatela limited the Cubs to two runs and five hits in six innings. It was his fifth quality start of the year and improved his record to 5-1.
He’s one of several young arms — a group that includes fellow rookies Kyle Freeland, Germen Marquez and Jeff Hoffman — who’ve helped the Rockies grab hold of the NL West even though they’ve dealt with a laundry list of injuries.
Senzatela is settling in in Denver. “It’s a very good city. They have very good fans here, so I like that,” he said Friday.
The pain of losing his biggest supporter still sticks with him, he said. But he’s doing his best to move forward.
A half-smile creeped across Senzatela’s face as he thought back on Nidya attending all those games when he was a boy in Venezuela.
“She liked to yell a lot,” said Senzatela, who then raised his voice a couple octaves to imitate hers. “Letttttttt’s goooooo baby.“
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