CHATWOOD NEEDS TO STOP THE WALKS TO KEEP HIS SPOT
When Tyler Chatwood next takes the mound for the Rockies, he will be standing at a crossroads in his baseball career. Failure is not an option for Chatwood, with the hunt for October, a spot in the starting rotation and his future in Colorado on the line.
“The stuff is the best it has ever been in my career. I think I need to start going right at hitters and not nibble around the corners. Make them beat me instead of beating myself, like I’ve done this year,” Chatwood told me Tuesday, on the eve of a start against the New York Mets in which he must break out of a season-long funk. Or else.
Chasing their first playoff berth since 2009, the Rockies don’t have time to hold Chatwood’s right hand. He must rear back and throw strikes as if his job depended on it. The problem? Chatwood leads the National League in an unwelcome category, with 62 walks allowed.
“My command’s not very good. It hasn’t been very good this year. But there’s still time to right that ship,” said Chatwood. The clock is ticking, though. A playoff race is no place for patience with a pitcher who cannot find the plate.
Cue the music, because there are too many arms in the starting rotation and not enough chairs. While the Rockies battle Arizona and Milwaukee for two wild-card berths, there’s also fierce competition in the Colorado clubhouse to determine which five pitchers will take the ball in September.
Jon Gray, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland seem to be locks for three of those jobs in the rotation. It’s also expected
that Chad Bettis will get a shot to celebrate his gutsy comeback from cancer with a start later this month. That leaves one spot for Jeff Hoffman, Chatwood and perhaps Antonio Senzatela.
At age 27, Chatwood has made 107 starts in the majors, one more than the combined experi- enced of Gray, Marquez, Freeland and Hoffman (106). He should be the grown-up in the rotation. There’s no questioning the fight in Chatwood, but sometimes he can’t get out of his way, by doubting stuff Black insists is on par with the league’s best pitchers.
“I wish I had the answer. I truly do,” Black said. “We’ve tried a couple of different things with Tyler on the mental side. Getting to know him, he’s awfully hard on himself. Sometimes the emotions of the game can get in the way of his performance.”
The disparity in his home/road splits drive us nuts. Since 2014, Chatwood’s earned run average has been a sterling 2.86 everywhere except Coors Field, where it’s a wretched 5.87. Being paid a $4.4 million salary this season for his 6-11 record, he has failed to deliver bang for the buck. Chatwood, however, insists his confidence remains rock-solid.
With free agency looming, Chatwood must decide if Colorado is the best place for him. What’s more, the Rockies need Chatwood to produce now, or the team will need to find a pitcher who can be trusted when the pressure is heavy in the thin air of 5,280 feet above sea level.