Bettis tweaks mechanics, bounces back in 2015

Bettis tweaks mechanics, bounces back in 2015

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis could actually enjoy time spent this offseason watching video of his breakout 2015 season.

Bettis finished with an 8-6 record and 4.23 ERA in 20 starts. The year included a 6-1 mark with a 2.66 ERA over the 12 games in which he went at least six innings, and 3-2 record with a 2.97 ERA in his final seven starts. His performance was certainly better than his 2014 season, in which he went 0-2 with a 9.21 ERA in 21 Major League relief appearances.

After viewing his out-of-whack delivery, Bettis and then-new pitching coach Steve Foster agreed he wouldn't pitch in Spring Training games until the end, when he made four appearances. But the remedial work and some further retooling in six starts at Triple-A Albuquerque paid off. He received rave reviews when Albuquerque pitching coach Darryl Scott and Rockies bullpen coach Darren Holmes viewed the 2015 tape.

"It was a night-and-day difference, honestly," Bettis said. "It was not necessarily, 'Here's what you're doing wrong.' It's, 'How can you be better at this?'"

Bettis, who turns 27 on April 26, must support his strong finish with more forward steps, which is not necessarily a given. Lefty Tyler Matzek finished strong in 2014, but he pitched himself out of the Majors by May '15. But Bettis, partly because he has already come out on the other side of his struggles at the Major League level and partly because of intangible traits that surfaced last year, is being seen as a leader of a starting rotation that has to find a positive direction.

"He's got some natural leadership abilities," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's very well-respected, a great competitor. You can look at him and say, 'These are the type of guys we're looking for to pitch for us.'"

Bettis checked off a number of positive boxes last season. For example:

• While the cumulative numbers aren't dazzling, Bettis didn't let his numbers sag too much at his hitter-friendly home park (4-3, 4.99 ERA in 11 starts) compared to his road performance (4-3, 3.35 ERA in nine starts), and he had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio at Coors Field (55-19) than away (43-23).

• He had three rough starts, all losses -- five runs in five innings at Houston on June 15; 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Angels on July 7; and four runs against the Giants over 4 1/3 frames on Sept. 5. But each time, he rebounded with a quality start and a win -- one run in 6 1/3 innings against the Brewers after the Astros game, three runs in six innings after the Angels loss and no runs over seven innings at Seattle in his outing after the San Francisco game.

Bettis' eight strikeouts

• Most importantly, the Rockies were 12-8 in his starts in a season that saw them finish 68-94.

The success came from Bettis getting momentum directed toward the plate. It unlocked the arm side -- down and away to right-handed hitters. Now Bettis can place two pitches there -- a cut fastball and a slider. And because he went through many painstaking steps, Bettis is in position to adjust when he becomes off-kilter.

"It was a little bit of change in mechanics and mentality, going from thinking that I can do it to knowing that I can whenever I need to," Bettis said. "That was a fresh change."

Weiss describes Bettis as "comfortable in his own skin." That means Bettis can do more than merely bristle at the reasoned assessment that the Rockies can't be taken seriously as a contender until the rotation improves. He can affect change.

"It puts a chip on our shoulder," Bettis said. "It's something that we as a starting staff need to be better at. We understand that. We're trying to come up with ways to give our team a better chance every day to come out with a win."

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.