MESA, Az. – The cancer is in submission. The blister is a distant memory. Chad Bettis is back in command on the mound.
And on Sunday, the Rockies right-hander was doing what he does best, dazzling the Chicago Cubs with a full assortment of pitches and a bend-but-don’t-break approach to the mound that makes him such a key part of the Rockies five-man rotation.
Bettis allowed one run – on a squeeze bunt by Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana in the bottom of the second – in a 4 1/3-inning effort that sent the Rockies on their way to a 7-2 victory on Sunday afternoon. It was vintage Bettis circa the first five weeks of 2018 – before the never-ending battle with blisters created havoc with him.
“The thing about Chad is he is a clearer thinker,” said manager Bud Black. “He has good in-game awareness, good points. And he has the weapons to get out of jams.”
He has decided to end a spring experiment with a slider, but still can go after hitters with command of a solid fastball, elite curveball, changeup and cut-fastball.
“It wasn’t developing the way I wanted it to,” Bettis said of the slider. “I am going back to the cutter. I don’t have to manipulate it as much.”
And as if the curveball isn’t effective on its own, he has developed the ability to change speeds with the pitch, having one that will hit that 80-to-82 mile-per-hour range, seven to eight miles faster than the curveball he has thrown since his youth.
“I have the ability to speed it up and slow it down without mechanical adjustments,” he said. “Having a little more speed differential is good. Plus, I have a good feel for everything. I have many ways to approach the hitter with the four pitches I have.”
Most of all, he has a clear mind about his physical well-being. The testicular cancer that derailed him two years ago has been in submission, and there has been no flare-up from the blisters that haunted him for the better part of five months last season, resulting in his late-season use out of the bullpen.
When spring training began, he was considered one of three candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation behind Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson. After the first two starts this spring, however, it was clear that Bettis had regained his starting stature in the spring showdown with Antonio Senzatela, who has since developed an infection in his right heal, and Jeff Hoffman, who has shown signs of emerging and will most likely get a chance to continue to build off that in a return trip to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Bettis said he is approaching each game without any concern of the cancer or blisters and as far as his efforts on the mound, “I like to say I am ahead of where I was last year.”
The health challenges of the last 18 months have provided a mental strength that Bettis sees as a benefit.
“I like to say I am a step ahead of where I was last year,” he said. “I learned a lot. I feel mentally, emotionally and physically I am better than I was a year ago.”
And it has been apparent this spring.