Bet­tis battles back to re­hab as­sign­ment

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke

Chad Bet­tis pitched again off the Coors Field mound Fri­day — to “live hit­ters,” as the say­ing goes — but it was not real. Not real enough. But he will not have to wait long for the true thing.

The Rock­ies will send the right-han­der to Connecticut to pitch Thurs­day for the Dou­ble-A Hart­ford Yard Goats, Bet­tis’ first start in game ac­tion on a month-long re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion as­sign­ment as he comes back from tes­tic­u­lar can­cer.

“He’s been pretty lev­el­headed about this whole base­ball re­hab, but he was pretty ex­cited,” Colorado man­ager Bud Black said Fri­day. “You could tell he’s ready for this.”

Bet­tis will pitch two in­nings, or about 30 pitches, in Hart­ford’s game against the Tren­ton Thun­der, the Yan­kees’ Dou­ble-A af­fil­i­ate.

His pro­gres­sion through an ex­tended re­hab will take Bet­tis through a sched­ule that ap­prox­i­mates spring train­ing. He prob­a­bly will pitch five out­ings of steadily in­creas­ing length, cul­mi­nat­ing in a 90- to 95-pitch ap­pear­ance some­time in Au­gust.

The Rock­ies plan for his re­turn as a starter in their ro­ta­tion this sea­son, Black said.

“There’s a work­man­like dis­po­si­tion to how he’s do­ing this,” Black said. “He feels healthy. And this is his job.”

Bet­tis pitched in one spring train­ing game this year, on March 5, but five days later he left Rock­ies camp in Scotts­dale, Ariz., af­ter tests showed his can­cer had re­turned de­spite surgery in De­cem­ber. He re­turned to work in Colorado’s club­house on June 6 to start a strength reg­i­men, and started pitch­ing to live hit­ters last week.

“I feel as nor­mal as I can be. Ev­ery­thing is there. I feel back,” he said.

Now he will re­turn to games that count, al­beit in the mi­nor leagues. Bet­tis’ path back to the ma­jors is now in mo­tion.

“He’s throw­ing 90 mph. He’s done the work for the past month to pre­pare for this,” Black said. “He’s checked off boxes phys­i­cally to show he’s ready. And he feels good men­tally.”

Ro­ta­tion ex­pand­ing.

The Rock­ies have used seven start­ing pitch­ers this sea­son, with an eighth on the way next month, and Black will not drop the jug­gling act. Rookie right-han­der An­to­nio Sen­za­tela, a 22year-old wun­derkind who jumped from Dou­ble-A into the ro­ta­tion to start the sea­son, will likely re­turn to a Colorado start­ing role soon af­ter the all-star break next week, Black said Fri­day.

“We like him. I’m a Sen­za­tela fan,” Black said. “And you can look for him af­ter the all-star break. In base­ball. Po­ten­tially.”

Sen­za­tela cruised to a 7-1 record and a 3.19 ERA through the first seven weeks. But af­ter a loss to the Di­a­mond­backs on June 22, when he fell to 9-3 with a 4.79 ERA, the Rock­ies pressed pause.

They moved Sen­za­tela to the bullpen to pre­serve his arm. With Dou­ble-A Hart­ford last year, he threw just 34M in­nings. He’s now thrown 92L in­nings this sea­son.

Parra re­turns.

Vet­eran out­fielder Ger­ardo Parra re­turned from a quad strain Fri­day that sent him to the dis­abled list for more than a month. He im­me­di­ately started in left field, hit­ting fifth against the vis­it­ing Chicago White Sox.

“Let’s hope Ger­ardo can give us a lift,” Black said. “When he’s right, he can do a lot of things: hit the ball over the fence, find a gap, spray the ball all over the field, he likes hit­ting with guys on base, he has some en­ergy and per­son­al­ity.”

Rookie Raimel Tapia moved from left to right field so Black could sit strug­gling slug­ger Car­los Gon­za­lez. Parra’s re­turn, and Tapia’s abil­ity to hit for con­tact and speed around the bases, Black hopes, will give their strug­gling of­fense a jolt.

“We need more con­tact. We’re punch­ing too much,” Black said. “Putting the ball in play when we need to, good (at-bats) will go a long way to get­ting our of­fense back on track.”

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