Bettis battles back to rehab assignment
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.”
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.
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.”