Return of Chatwood, Lyles could spur Rockies

Colorado may rely on young righties to stabilize struggling rotation

Return of Chatwood, Lyles could spur Rockies

DENVER -- The Rockies have their fingers crossed that a couple of their pitching answers have been with them all along, only stuck on the disabled list.

Right-hander Tyler Chatwood was 10-4 with a 3.92 ERA in 22 games (18 starts) at Coors Field from 2012-14 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in July '14. Righty Jordan Lyles has shown flashes while going 9-9 with a 4.56 ERA since joining the Rockies in '14. However, he was limited to 22 starts that season because of a broken left hand and 10 starts in '15 because of a right big toe injury that required surgery.

Chatwood, 26, and Lyles, 25, could be keys in Colorado's plan for improving its starting pitching. The Rockies sent catcher Chris Iannetta to the Angels for Chatwood, a second-round pick in the 2008 Draft. Lyles was an Astros first-round pick, also in '08, who came with outfielder Brandon Barnes in a trade for center fielder Dexter Fowler. Such deals, as well as pickups of Chris Rusin, David Hale and Jeff Hoffman -- who was acquired in the Troy Tulowitzki deal at the '15 Trade Deadline -- deepen the Rockies' cadre of high-quality arms and give the team a margin of error with its own early picks.

A healthy Chatwood and Lyles represent the Rockies' best hope of a competent rotation after enduring two seasons of finishing 29th (4.89) and 30th (5.27) in the Majors in starters' ERA, and dragging the bottom in most statistical categories.

Lyles' problems seem the product of bad luck. He said he had never previously sustained a right-arm injury, and he had never missed a start as far back as high school before the past two seasons.

Lyles exits with injury

Chatwood's case carries some mystery, as he had Tommy John surgery at age 16. Predicting how an arm preforms after the procedure, much less two of them, is difficult. However, Chatwood and the Rockies hope the unusual time gap between surgeries allowed his arm to heal from the first operation.

Given that Colorado's attempts to obtain pitching this offseason have been more rumor than fire, much is resting on how the pair recover.

"Adding two guys like Chatwood and Lyles, veteran stabilizers to a rotation, is going to be a massive positive," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. "The injury to Chatwood, it being his second Tommy John and the recovery from that, little bit more sensitive and involved than Jordan's recovery and his injury with his foot."

The way the 2014 season finished for Chatwood and Lyles fuels the positive thinking. Both pitchers -- along with lefty Tyler Anderson, the club's top pick in '11 who spent the past two seasons dealing with a troublesome stress fracture in his elbow -- pitched in the Rockies' fall instructional and Dominican Republic instructional programs after the season and stretched out to nearly 50 innings.

"Being with Jordan when we both were rehabbing and throwing, we both understood how tough it is missing time the last two years," Chatwood said. "Working with him was exciting. We could see each other pushing, and it translated into our rehab innings. We want to get back and help the team."

Lyles said he and Chatwood don't mind having so much hope placed on their shoulders.

"We can make a difference -- I believe that," Lyles said. "Chatwood, the things he has done in past years when he was healthy speak for themselves. I believe I'm going to only get better. The past two years, there were some weird injuries, but I'm looking forward to us being back and seeing what we can do.

"It's not pressure. Everyone wants that test -- to become one of the guys that can make our staff and give us a chance to win. If we do that, we're going to be better than we've been in the past."

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