First spring start worth wait for Bettis

Righty perfect in three frames as Rox pitchers dominate Tribe

First spring start worth wait for Bettis

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- While delayed a bit, Chad Bettis' spring debut was perfect under any circumstances.

Bettis on Friday at Salt River Fields did not allow a baserunner in three innings against the Indians. He struck out three and needed just 31 pitches in the Rockies' eventual 6-1 win, in which the Tribe did not get a hit until one out in the eighth.

"It's nice to get out there finally and face hitters," said Bettis, who admitted to being antsy leading up to the outing and having some jitters against Indians leadoff hitter Rajai Davis.

Bettis and Jorge De La Rosa, who made his 2016 debut on Thursday, were held out of the first week of games.

Bettis topped out at 96 mph with his fastball, and liked the way his curveball felt. "It's the formula we saw last year, with the big, slow curveball, power fastball, power changeup," manager Walt Weiss said. "He was in complete control."

Cactus League games help get other pitchers needed innings in a game situation.

"Bettis and De La Rosa hit the ground running when they show up to camp," Weiss said, "so they don't need as much time to be built up."

After a breakout season a year ago, Bettis has high expectations of himself this season. As do the Rockies of the 26-year-old.

A lot of those expectations stem from the success Bettis had using his curveball, something he didn't throw when he was a reliever.

"It made him feel like he was at home again," Weiss said. "The fact that he got the curveball back, which was a go-to pitch for him, made him a different guy last year."

So much so that the Rockies this spring are encouraging more of their pitchers -- primarily De La Rosa and Jon Gray -- to use their curveballs more often. Even in Denver's thin air, which goes against most of baseball's conventional thinking.

"I think the guys with good curveballs, the guys who can spin the ball, they can spin the ball at Coors Field, too," Weiss said.

Weiss listed former Rockies pitchers Darren Holmes and Darryl Kile, as well as Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, as examples of guys whose curveballs broke just the same in Denver as other ballparks.

"It can be done," Weiss said. "The guys who can spin the ball, who have a knack for spinning the ball, we're encouraging them to do that. It also opens up some things. With a 12-to-6 curveball, you can elevate fastballs off that and get hitters to chase. It's a nice complement to have. That's one of the things we've been stressing.

"It's a weapon. And I think Bettis is the best example of that, how he used it last year."

Chris Gabel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.