The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Nick Groke, The Den­ver Post

Chad Bet­tis reared back and let loose, with no thought or worry, no doc­tors and no can­cer. A fast­ball as hard as he can throw, straight at a catcher’s mitt. Not a pitch, but a throw.

“I wanted to let it go and see where it ended up,” Bet­tis said. The Rock­ies right-han­der, in his long re­cov­ery from tes­tic­u­lar can­cer and chemo­ther­apy, pitched live bat­ting prac­tice to hit­ters for the first time Tues­day at Coors Field.

He loved it — even if the bat­ter, Pat Valaika, turned that pitch turned into a long­ball over the left-field fence.

“I couldn’t hit his changeup, that’s for sure,” Valaika said. “I was cu­ri­ous how he’d throw. It was firm. He was get­ting it there in a hurry. He looked re­ally good.”

Bet­tis threw 25 pitches, to Valaika and Alexi Amarista, plus 30 more in the bullpen and eight warm-up pitches. Bet­tis will throw an­other round to hit­ters again Satur­day. Af­ter that, the real work starts.

The 28-year-old will prob­a­bly be­gin a mi­nor-league re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion as­sign­ment dur­ing the al­ls­tar break next week. Con­sider it his spring train­ing. Bet­tis, as if he were start­ing to ramp up in March, will prob­a­bly pitch in five games of in­creas­ing length, once ev­ery five days. His first out­ing would prob­a­bly go two in­nings, or about 30 pitches.

That would point to­ward a re­turn to the Rock­ies some­time in Au­gust. And the Rock­ies are build­ing him into a starter.

“He’s a start­ing pitcher,” Colorado man­ager Bud Black said. “Things are lin­ing up. We’ve seen Chad throw off the mound now for some time, with in­creas­ing in­ten­sity. And this is an­other step. But he’s pass­ing all the mark­ers, and it’s re­ally good to see.”

The Rock­ies al­ready are deal­ing with a sur­plus of starters. They moved 22-year-old rookie An­to­nio Sen­za­tela out of the ro­ta­tion to the bullpen last week. And lefty Tyler An­der­son is on the dis­abled list af­ter arthro­scopic surgery on his left knee.

They will not ar­gue against in­creas­ing the num­ber of avail­able starters. Rookie Jeff Hoff­man’s seven-in­ning out­ing Mon­day night was just the sec­ond vic­tory of any length for a Rock­ies starter, af­ter Jon Gray’s six­in­ning win last week, in the past 10 days.

For Bet­tis, the goal is only base­ball. A tu­mor marker test within the next two weeks is his only re­main­ing health hur­dle. But he is al­ready plow­ing for­ward.

“It’s nice to be talk­ing about me­chan­ics again in­stead of how my strength is, how I’m re­cov­er­ing, stuff like that,” he said. “I feel as nor­mal as I can be. Ev­ery­thing is there. I feel back.” Foot­notes. Colorado first base­man Mark Reynolds, in a fan vote-off for one re­main­ing spot on the Na­tional League all-star team, sat in fourth place among five play­ers in early vote tal­lies. Los An­ge­les Dodgers third base­man Justin Turner was in the lead. The vote-off ends Thurs­day. … Black on Tues­day moved right fielder Car­los Gon­za­lez into the cleanup spot against the Reds, one spot ahead of Reynolds. Gon­za­lez re­turned from a shoul­der in­jury Mon­day, but his six home runs trail Reynolds’ team-best 19. Black said the move was as done to pro­tect Reynolds, as well as pro­mote Gon­za­lez. … Sec­ond base­man DJ LeMahieu was held out of the start­ing lineup as a planned day of rest.

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