SCOTTSDALE, Az. – Chad Bettis’ Comeback II begins on Saturday.
After a battle with testicular cancer two years ago and then an ongoing issue with blisters that flared up a month into the 2018 season that interrupted a season that had such a promising start, Bettis is ready to regain his spot in the Rockies' rotation.
The first step in that challenge will come in the first game of the spring, Bettis getting the start against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a game that is far from a make-it-or-break-it moment, but if all things go well will certainly provide a boost in confidence for Bettis and the Rockies.
Ostensibly, Bettis is in a three-man battle with Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman for the fifth spot in the rotation behind the quartet of Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray. However, for all the right things that Bettis says about the role doesn’t matter to him, just the team winning, manager Bud Black knows better.
“He sees himself as a starting pitcher,” said Black, “which is how I want him to see himself.”
And, if Bettis is physically up for it, Black sees him as a starter, too.
Black watched Bettis from the opposing dugout, back when he was managing the Padres, and was impressed not just with Bettis ability, but just as importantly with his determination to succeed.
Black’s first two years as the Rockies manager have not allowed him to see the real Chad Bettis, other than a brief glimpse in the opening weeks last season. That glimpse, however, reinforced everything about Bettis that Black had viewed from the opposing dugout.
“You look at (the first six weeks) and he was 4-1 before the blisters,” said Black.
Not just 4-1, mind you, but 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his first seven starts. He would, however, make only 13 starts the remainder of the season, going 1-1 with a 7.58 ERA in his final 13 starts. He did, however, briefly work out of the bullpen and allowed just three earned runs in 11 1/3 relief innings.
And it was that start of the season, when Bettis was blister free, that Black thinks about.
“He struggled with the blister only,” Black cautioned when asked about the problems Black had in the final five months of last season. “That blister issue came out of nowhere and we couldn’t get a handle on it. It was frustrating for Chad. Even when he would feel good there were points in the later part of a game where they would flare up on him.
He had poor performances because of the blister he tried to pitch through and then had to go on the disabled list. The thing that stood out about Chad is the person and character. He’s not an excuse maker. He is a good self-evaluator. There’s a day-to-day consistency with who he is on and off the field.”
What Black is anxious to see is the consistency of a healthy Bettis on the mound.
So is Bettis.
“I have been working all off-season to get to this point,” he said. “It’s time to face hitters. It’s going to be fun. It’s nice to be on the other side (of the blisters), put that behind us and move on.”
And while Black makes it known he is aware that Bettis' goal is to be in the rotation, Bettis, the teammate that he is, is careful not to get ahead of himself.
“Whether I start, or I am in the bullpen is irrelevant at this point,” he said. “I want to win. I am going to compete for the starting spot and see where that takes me, but my pride is (the Rockies) winning.
"It's all about getting a ring this year. I don't care what my numbers look like. I want a ring."
But then comes a subtle admission, which underscored Black’s contention that in his heart, Bettis is a starter.
“Competing for a starting spot is an honor,” said Bettis. “It is something I take pride in.”