CHATWOOD NEEDS TO STOP THE WALKS TO KEEP HIS SPOT

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - M ARK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

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.

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