Rockies unexpectedly part ways with Chacin

Right-hander, 27, struggled this spring after shoulder issues cut short his 2014 season

Rockies unexpectedly part ways with Chacin

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin said being unconditionally released on Sunday was a surprise. Though he said he understood the Rockies' decision because of the money involved -- with him not at full velocity after a shoulder injury last year -- he believes he will be ready for the regular season should another team claim him.

The move was unexpected. The Rockies signed him to a one-year, $5.5 million contract to avoid arbitration this offseason, although he was coming off a 2014 during which he started just 11 games because of rotator cuff and labrum issues. The Rockies and noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews consulted with him and decided on rest and rehab rather than surgery.

But after Chacin posted a 6.52 ERA in four Cactus League outings, the Rockies opted to release him. The move means the Rockies save three-quarters of the payroll space originally devoted to Chacin and will pay him $1.35 million.

"They told me at the start of Spring Training that it depends on how I do, how good the rotation is this year," Chacin said. "I know I'm not 100 percent and my velocity isn't where I want it to be. I was just trying to get my arm ready. I wasn't trying to throw up zeros.

"But I understand how things work. This is a business, and it's a lot of money. I thank the Rockies and the fans for helping me reach my dreams. Best of luck to them. But I'll keep working. I'm just 27 years old, and I'll be ready when the season starts."

Said Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich: "Over time, we just felt that Jhoulys was not going to have a spot on our club. Once we had made that decision and were confident in that decision, we felt it was the right time to do it, and allow him to try to find a job with another organization.

"It was a baseball decision. In our humble, collective opinion, we felt he was outpitched by a group of players. It's a tough decision to make, especially with the type of person that he is."

Chacin lives in Scottsdale and will continue to work out on his own if not immediately picked up by another team.

Chacin's six innings

Chacin was expected to be in the Opening Day rotation if healthy. But his release, and the uncertainty regarding lefty Jorge De La Rosa's left groin tightness, opens possibilities for the rotation.

Three young right-handers are candidates -- the team's top two prospects, Jon Gray (No. 17 overall prospect according to MLB.com) and Eddie Butler (No. 36), and David Hale, acquired in a trade with the Braves this offseason after posting a 3.30 ERA in 45 games (six starts) last season.

In addition, there is nothing preventing the Rockies from bringing back non-roster veteran lefty John Lannan -- who was sent to Minor League camp Sunday so there would be more innings available to him -- if the team wants experience in its opening rotation. Hard-throwing righty Chad Bettis, who was optioned to Minor League camp, could be an option during the season. A reliever last year, Bettis has shown promise with improved mechanics. Lefty Chris Rusin, a waiver claim from the Cubs, is also on the radar.

Confident in the depth, Rockies manager Walt Weiss said competition will determine how the club fills the hole.

"It's a tough day for us, for me, having had that conversation with Jhoulys," Weiss said. "He's been a warrior for us. We've got several candidates."

Chacin's last start in a Rockies uniform was Saturday against the Dodgers, when he gave up four runs on seven hits in three-plus innings. He threw his four-seam fastball in an attempt to sharpen it and increase velocity -- during regular-season games he uses it to help make his sinker, changeup and curve more effective. Most of his deliveries ranged from 87-89 mph, with a couple reaching the low 90s. Chacin's velocity averaged in the 90-92 mph range from 2009-12, but was 89.9 in '13 and 88.5 in '14. Last year, the sinker velocity dipped from 89.4 mph in 2013 to 87.8.

Weiss said the velocity wasn't the only concern.

"We've seen Jhoulys pitch at that velocity, be effective at that velocity," Weiss said. "We just had a few guys ahead of him."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.