Bettis states case for Opening Day start with strong finish

Righty retires final seven batters in Cactus League outing vs. Texas

Bettis states case for Opening Day start with strong finish

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Shutdown innings are a hallmark of a good starter, a pitcher a team can count on to buckle down when the going gets a little rough. Even though it was just a Spring Training game, Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis showed Monday he's capable of delivering the goods in that department.

In his third Cactus League outing, Bettis gave up the first lead with three runs in the third, but then shut the Rangers down and let his team make a comeback, which the Rockies did in a 9-6 victory. In fact, he had two perfect innings after giving up that early lead, and by the time his outing was done, the Rockies had the lead.

"You have to make sure you go out there and do what you can to prevent them from scoring again and keep your team in the ballgame," said Bettis. "It's Spring Training, but that being said that's kind of who I am. I lay it all out there and try and do the best for my team."

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Mission accomplished for the 26-year-old being considered for his first Opening Day start. Brushing aside a third inning that included a pair of bunt singles and a couple of well-struck hits for the three-run hole, Bettis retired the last seven batters he faced while the Rockies' offense did its thing.

"That's huge," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He goes out and has a difficult third, but he keeps it together, minimizes his damage and goes back out and throws two zeros and leaves the game with the lead. That's the type of things we need from our pitchers. He's a great competitor, never gives in. He's got tremendous makeup."

Bettis has done what he hoped to do this spring so far, establishing a foundation for his season by working on fastball command and finding a groove with his big curveball and strong changeup. He also has shown the competitive fire that makes him a candidate to be the Rockies' ace this year.

Bettis wound up throwing 75 pitches, 51 for strikes, and remains very much on target to be primed for the opening of the season, whether or not it's his ball on Opening Day.

"I think that's the best I've felt all spring. I'm pleased with how I felt, how pitches were moving, the locations of them and the effort level going into that," Bettis said.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.