Rox's rookies pleased with new jersey numbers

Senzatela, Freeland and others eagerly ditch spring digits

Rox's rookies pleased with new jersey numbers

DENVER -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Antonio Senzatela loves No. 9. He wore it as a youngster in Venezuela and even at Double-A Hartford last year, though pitchers rarely wear single digits. Now that he's a new Major Leaguer, he's just happy to have any number.

When Senzatela made the Rockies' season-opening roster, no way was he requesting second baseman DJ LeMahieu's No. 9. "Too much respect," he said.

So Senzatela took what the Rockies gave him, No. 49, which kinda-sorta has history. He wore No. 44 at Class A Modesto in 2015 because the No. 9 jersey on hand was too small.

"I like 49," he said. "It's the '4' from '44' and the 9."

During Spring Training, most of the young players wore high, balky numbers: 71 for Senzatela, 73 for pitcher Kyle Freeland, 67 for pitcher German Marquez and 65 for outfielder Stephen Cardullo. Marquez and Cardullo wore those in their Major League debuts last season.

Making an Opening Day roster often means a number more identified with baseball than football. All of them were like Senzatela, with a number that was special to them. But when they received assigned numbers from the Rockies, they fell in love immediately: Freeland with 21, Marquez with 48 and Cardullo with 16.

Freeland, who started Friday's home opener against the Dodgers, wore 21 at Denver's Thomas Jefferson High and at the University of Evansville, and his Twitter handle is @KFREE_21.

Although the number is unoccupied on the 40-man Major League roster -- 21 is most associated with former second baseman and coach Eric Young -- Freeland was issued No. 31. And he took it with a smile.

"Of course," Freeland said. "Greg Maddux."

Marquez's favorite number is 5, which Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez wears with distinction. In Marquez's case, he was a third baseman when he was younger, and 5 is the position on the scorecard.

But when he was 14, Rockies scout Carlos Gomez, who is from the same Bolivar, Venezuela, area as Marquez, saw him and had an idea.

"He saw me make a good play, and when I threw, I had a good arm," said Marquez said. "He asked me, 'Do you want to throw a bullpen [session]?' I said, 'OK, why not?' I threw at 82-83 mph."

Gomez and the Rockies signed Senzatela, but they couldn't sign Marquez for budget reasons. However, they traded with the Rays for him before last season.

Now Marquez said of No. 48, "It's fine. ... I just want to pitch and do my job."

Cardullo's Twitter handle is @dulander38, which is part of a long story he didn't go into beyond saying it's all about family.

"It has a lot of special meaning to me," he said. "It has a lot to do with my grandparents and my parents, and I wore it at Florida State. I'd absolutely love to wear it."

Alas, lefty reliever Mike Dunn, who has Major League seniority, is the Rockies' 38.

As for No. 16, Marquez said, "I've never worn it before, and I'm grateful for the number they gave me."

Worth noting

• Lefty Chris Rusin, on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique strain, struck out three and allowed two hits in 2 2/3 scoreless innings for Triple-A Albuquerque in a rehab assignment Thursday. Rusin took the decision in a 7-4 victory over Salt Lake.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.