DENVER -- Wednesday night's odd and unsuccessful start by right-hander Tyler Chatwood and three encouraging innings from rookie righty Antonio Senzatela leave Rockies manager Bud Black with decisions to make about his rotation.
While just three balls were hit hard -- two of them home runs, including Curtis Granderson's three-run gut punch in a 10-5 loss -- the fact is Chatwood gave up eight runs (seven earned) in 5 1/3 innings and has a 5.11 ERA. At game's end, Senzatela, skipped his time through to hone his fastball command, retired nine of 10 batters, four on strikeouts, and should be able to throw 75-90 pitches should his next game be a start.
Understandably, Black did not announce a decision Thursday about the future of the rotation. And there is time. The Rockies have two of the next six days off, which gives some time for decisions and juggling.
There were extenuating circumstances to Chatwood's outing. He had pitched one relief inning since suffering a right calf injury July 13, and, as has been the case all year, Chatwood was hurt by less-than-solid contact. Also, Chatwood entered leading the National League with 62 walks but issued just one explainable pass -- to Jay Bruce, who had homered earlier.
"The first three innings were outstanding, even though the first-pitch ratio wasn't great," Black said. "But, man, when the ball was down, there was action -- the fastball and the cutter -- and they hit the ball on the ground. He was around the zone pretty much the whole game."
But Senzatela (10-4, 4.70 ERA) might have earned his way back into the rotation. And Black said the Rockies are not as concerned with slowing the innings build-up of the four starters in the rotation. Senzatela, who threw 34 2/3 Double-A innings last year, has been pulled from the rotation twice. Lefty Kyle Freeland (11-7, 3.71) was skipped once and had a long All-Star break, and the midseason break might have done the trick for righties German Marquez (9-4, 4.08 going into Thursday's start against the Mets) and Jeff Hoffman (6-3, 5.38).
"Not that we're past protecting innings, but I think we're getting to the point now where we feel pretty good about all these guys, physically," Black said.
The rotation options will increase again soon. Righty Chad Bettis will start for Triple-A Albuquerque at Round Rock on Thursday night and most likely will make one additional rehab start as he returns from testicular cancer. That could make it possible to skip a pitcher's turn to reduce the innings load, or move a starter or two to the bullpen.
• Lefty setup man Jake McGee, on the 10-day disabled list with a mid-back strain, played catch Thursday and will throw a bullpen session Friday if he continues to feel good. He is eligible to return Saturday.
• Black said the first baseman Ian Desmond will not be ready when he is eligible to return Saturday from his right calf strain, and a brief Minor League rehab assignment could be a consideration.