Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela is headed for an MRI today after sustaining what looked to have been a potentially serious knee injury in yesterday’s loss to the Cardinals. Chasing down a Brendan Donovan grounder to the right side of the infield, Senzatela pivoted from trying to field the ball to cover first base and came up hobbling before collapsing in foul territory behind the first base bag (video link). He had to be helped off the field. Manager Bud Black told reporters yesterday that Senzatela has a left knee sprain (Twitter link via Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post).
The 27-year-old Senzatela is in the first season of what was a surprising five-year, $50.5MM contract extension that bought out his final two arbitration years and three would-be free agent seasons. It’s been a rough season for the right-hander, who currently has a 5.07 ERA through his first 92 1/3 innings since inking that deal. Fielding-independent metrics are a bit more forgiving (4.06 FIP, 4.48 SIERA), as Senzatela has undeniably been dinged by a .383 average on balls in play. That’s particularly problematic for Senzatela, who allows more balls in play than just about any starting pitcher in the game; his 13.1% strikeout rate this season is the lowest among all MLB pitchers with at least 90 innings.
If Senzatela is indeed headed to the injured list, he’ll join fellow starter Chad Kuhl (strained hip flexor) on the shelf. The Rockies have a thin group of replacement options for that pair, particularly in light of the immense struggles of lefty Austin Gomber (5.86 ERA in 106 innings). Gomber, who started 23 games and posted a 4.53 ERA with the Rox a year ago, was moved to the bullpen earlier this summer and came on in relief of Senzatela yesterday — only to surrender five runs in 2 1/3 innings.
German Marquez and Kyle Freeland have been mainstays in the Colorado rotation and are both under long-term contract — Freeland, like Senzatela, after signing an extension this offseason. Both have struggled in 2022, however, pitching to an ERA near 5.00 this year. Journeyman Jose Urena has a 4.80 ERA in a dozen appearances (eight starts), and rookie right-hander Ryan Feltner has been tattooed for a 6.39 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts). Colorado’s innings leaders in Triple-A — Zach Neal, Brandon Gold and Riley Smith — all have ERAs north of 6.00.
Given that context, it’s perhaps likeliest that Gomber will simply step back into the starting mix should Senzatela require an absence. The rash of poor performance and struggles/injuries among the team’s depth options and top-ranked pitching prospects alike, however, underscore the Rockies’ need for pitching help this offseason. The Rockies have steadfastly refused to enter into a rebuild phase under owner Dick Monfort, so it’ll be incumbent on general manager Bill Schmidt to bolster a rotation and bullpen that both rank 29th in the Majors in ERA (5.26 and 4.85, respectively).