Rockies rotation holds up despite travails

Bettis, Rusin, Hale have given Colorado a big boost

Rockies rotation holds up despite travails

DENVER -- The Rockies' starting pitching has turned out good, even though little has gone as planned.

The rotation is a key reason the Rockies have recovered from an 11-game losing streak to enter Sunday's game against the Marlins at least in viewing distance of the top of the National League West -- six games. The Rockies entered Sunday having won 10 of their last 14, and starters are 7-2 with a 3.45 ERA in that stretch.

Before the season, most believed everything had to go right for the rotation to be anything but a liability. But here's a look at what has gone wrong:

• Lefty No. 1 pitcher Jorge De La Rosa (2-2, 6.15 ERA) dealt with a groin injury coming out of Spring Training and is fighting a cut on his left middle finger, and veteran Kyle Kendrick was 2-7 with a 6.55 ERA going into Sunday afternoon. And lefty Tyler Matzek lost his mechanics, and was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque to rebuild a fundamental base.

• Righty Jordan Lyles is out for the season with a left big toe injury that will require surgery this week. (The 14-game stats of the starters were skewed by the fact Lyles suffered his injury after 1 1/3 innings last Sunday at Philadelphia.)

• Jhoulys Chacin, released in Spring Training after last year's rotator cuff issues, signed a Triple-A deal with the Indians and appears headed back to the Majors with 15 strikeouts in his last 14 2/3 innings at Columbus.

However, the Rockies are surging thanks to quality depth -- a necessity for a team that doesn't spend big on frontline starting pitchers.

Righty Chad Bettis (2-0, 2.70 ERA), rebuilt after a messy 2014 in the bullpen, has been the team's best starter in five outings since coming up from Albuquerque. Lefty Chris Rusin (2-0, 1.45, three games, two starts) and righty David Hale (1-0, 4.26 in two starts going into Monday's start against the Cardinals) also came up from Albuquerque. The call-up trio and improving rookie Eddie Butler, who went six innings in two of his last three starts, are keeping the team in games.

Bettis and Butler came up through the system and seem to be stronger after early-career struggles. Rusin, claimed off waivers from the Cubs at the end of last season, and Hale, acquired in a trade with the Braves, were part of the depth-building strategy of general manager Jeff Bridich, assistant GM player personnel Jon Weil and director of pitcher operations Mark Wiley.

"These guys did a great job of finding pitchers who had done well in the Minor Leagues and had some big league experience," Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster said. "It takes more than five. It takes more than seven. It takes 8-10. They found guys who like to compete."

There is more depth. Non-roster lefty John Lannan, formerly with the Nationals, Phillies and Mets, gave up two or fewer earned runs in seven of his nine appearances Albuquerque. Righty Brett Marshall, who made the Reds' rotation last spring but was injured at the end of camp, just recovered from an elbow issue and is at Double-A New Britain.

Also, 2014 first-round pick Jon Gray has a 2.76 ERA in his last seven starts.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.