Bettis aims to break out after first strong season

Key leader in Rockies' rotation has confidence of teammates, coaching staff

Bettis aims to break out after first strong season

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It started late last season, with Rockies teammates talking up right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis' leadership virtues when he wasn't around. Then manager Walt Weiss, pitching coach Steve Foster and even general manager Jeff Bridich made similar statements.

Much of this also has been said to Bettis' face. He embraces it all.

"I never had a problem sticking my neck out for anybody -- any of my teammates, honestly," Bettis said. "If somebody needs some help, I need them to come to me, whether it's on the field or off the field. That's a big thing for me. The biggest thing is I want to earn the respect of all the teammates."

With the Rockies reluctant to spend big on free-agent starters, they have been building with Draft choices and younger pitchers acquired from other clubs. But breaking in young pitching at Coors Field has proven difficult. The fact Bettis struggled mightily after being called up in 2013 and '14 as a miscast reliever (1-2, 9.09 ERA in 29 relief appearances), but shook it off to become a solid rotation member last season (8-6, 4.23 ERA in 20 starts) has Colorado believing he is poised to be their primary breakout player for '16.

Last spring, Bettis was barely visible. Sequestered on the practice fields as Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes helped him correct delivery flaws that prevented him from getting pitches low and to the arm side, he was barely a factor in the competition for the Opening Day rotation. But after seven starts at Triple-A Albuquerque (3-2, 3.46 ERA), Bettis was ready.

In his third start, Bettis held the Giants to two runs and six hits in 8 1/3 innings in an 11-2 victory on May 24. In his next, he had a no-hit bid spoiled in the eighth in a 4-1 road victory May 29. He impressed with his bounce-back ability: each time he yielded four or more runs, he gave up three or fewer in his next start.

Bettis flirts with no-no

Now, Bettis is visible at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Bettis will exchange pitching ideas with anyone, and some invite him to study the video of their performances. The Rockies held him and Opening Day starter lefty Jorge De La Rosa out of games early, not for any reclamation but to reduce the wear and tear on their two pitching leaders.

Despite the accolades that came with a good season, the fact is Bettis has had just one. Rather than put pressure on himself to follow with another strong year, he is concentrating on perfecting the same fundamental delivery points.

Bettis, Weiss on great start

"To put it in short terms, you have to be ever-evolving," Bettis said. "You have to be willing to learn. You have to be able to look at different aspects of the game and be able to learn from your good starts and your bad starts. It's easier to learn from bad starts than it is good. But you have to be able to evaluate yourself critically and honestly."

It's an attitude Weiss hopes permeates a young staff that will have good and bad moments as it attempts to become a winner.

"Whether you've got a month in the big leagues or 15 years in the big leagues, that should be your mentality," Weiss said. "That's how Chad operates."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for 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.