Filling in admirably, Bettis aces audition

Filling in admirably, Bettis aces audition

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rockies sent right-hander Chad Bettis to Minor League camp on Sunday, but after they released Jhoulys Chacin and learned that David Hale's left oblique injury would cost him Thursday night's start against the Rangers, Bettis had another audition.

Bettis acquitted himself well, giving up two runs -- on a Leonys Martin homer -- but allowing no further runs and striking out four against three hits.

Expectations were that the outing was a one-time fill-in start, but even if that's the case, Bettis considers it practice for the regular season and a call that could come at any time.

"It was more along the lines of, 'Hey, this is how fast things can happen,'" Bettis said.

Bettis, 25, struggled to a 9.12 ERA in 21 bullpen appearances last season before the Rockies converted him to a starter in Triple-A at the end of the year. Wanting to make him a starter once and for all, the Rockies delayed his Cactus League debut so he could work on mechanics. Even though Thursday was his third Cactus League appearance, the rebuilding of his pitching motion continues.

Earlier this week, Bettis worked with pitching coach Steve Foster and special instructor Pedro Astacio on honing his follow-through. In one drill he would begin at the end of his stride, then make his throw. In another he would balance at the top of his windup, then Foster would flip the ball into his throwing hand. Bettis would catch and continue with his motion.

"Initially, I was unsure, to be honest," Bettis said. "But they explained what we were going to start working on, and I bought in. I was on board with everything they started to explain to me -- where we are right now and where we need to be. We had to go through these stages.

"We very distinctively worked on fastballs, low and away [to a right-handed hitter], only. We changed all my mechanics to get to that spot any time I wanted to. Everything works off that now."

Bettis also shook off some trouble. He hit Robinson Chirinos to open the third, served up Martin's homer on a hanging curveball two batters later, and saw Elvis Andrus reach on a bloop single. But he retired the last five hitters and struck out Ryan Rua and Carlos Peguero to end his outing.

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.