Chatwood fights way into rotation
Veteran right-hander wasn’t pleased with demotion
Tyler Chatwood borrowed — stole might be more accurate — Alexi Amarista’s bat Friday night, then he hit a gamebreaking two-run single. But the veteran Rockies right-hander is not trying to pitch like somebody else. He is finally back to himself.
Chatwood won consecutive games for the first time since early June, after he threw 94 pitches over 5M innings to lead the Rockies past the Padres. His pitch count was telling. After the Rockies demoted the 27-year-old to the bullpen in late July, Chatwood returned to full length. He is a proper starter, once again a full-time member of the Rockies rotation.
“That’s what I’m used to doing. Starting,” Chatwood said. “I’ve started most of my career. That’s what I feel best doing. That’s the best way I can help us win games.”
In seven relief appearances over five weeks, Chatwood seemed lost, a pitcher without a clear purpose. He earned a second career save after pitching a clean 12th inning at Cleveland on Aug. 9, but was otherwise relegated to middle-inning mop-up duty out of the bullpen.
Chatwood was not pleased about this development.
“I’ve been good for awhile here. I had a rough start against the Mets and I got put in the bullpen,” he said.
Friday’s victory over the Padres put him back in place. But only after he found his go-to weapon, a two-seam fastball that runs down and away to lefthanded hitters. For much of the season, his best pitch was running flat, off the plate, leading to too many walks. He had a 5.25 ERA on May 12.
Some on-the-run mechanical adjustments squared his delivery, planting his foot more in line with his body. It gave him more true movement to his sinkerball.
“I was fighting myself,” Chatwood said. “My two-seam has always been my pitch. We noticed it and I picked up on it right away.”
Chatwood last season led the Rockies’ rotation with a 3.87 ERA, but the number hit a deeper trend. He had a 1.69 ERA on the road, but a 6.12 mark at Coors Field. His one-run effort Friday in Denver, the Rockies hope, signals a turnaround.
“When we sent him to the bullpen, a lot of that was performance-based,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “He came back with a mind-set of, ‘I’m not going to beat myself. I’m gonna go after people and trust my stuff in the hitting area.’ “
Against the Padres, Chatwood threw just 52 strikes against 42 balls, a troubling sign according to Black. He was saved by forcing two double-play groundouts in the first and second innings.
“For Tyler, long-term, that’s probably one thing for him that he should really concentrate on as his career continues,” Black said. “But we gave him this opportunity to get back into the rotation and he seized it.”
Rotation changes. Chatwood will push up a day in the Rockies rotation to pitch Wednesday at San Francisco, the sight of his best game this season. He threw a two-hitter over nine innings there on April 15.
The Rockies instead will push back right-hander Chad Bettis, who recorded just one out in his previous start, a loss at Arizona on Thursday. Bettis instead will pitch Saturday at Arizona. The rest of the rotation will fill in before him.