Chatwood struggling to command fastball

Chatwood struggling to command fastball

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood's struggles on Tuesday -- when he gave up seven runs and eight hits in three innings of a 10-1 loss to the Rays -- have a simple explanation, manager Walt Weiss said Wednesday.

"It's getting back to commanding the fastball. Everything begins with that, for most pitchers," Weiss said. "He was scattering his fastball, spraying it around a little bit last night, a lot of pitches up."

In his last two starts, home losses to the Phillies and the Rays, Chatwood (8-6, 3.83 ERA) has given up 11 earned runs and 16 hits in eight total innings. Those starts came after he missed three starts with a back strain, and they raise questions:

• Even though the Rockies want to be careful with his innings load, because he missed the better part of two seasons due to Tommy John right elbow surgery, did he lose his groove?

• Has the difference between performance at home (3-6, 6.26 ERA) and road (5-0, 1.30 ERA, which leads the National League) become an issue?

On Tuesday, Chatwood relied on his fastball for 50 of his 64 pitches. He used 13 cutters/sliders (the pitches are similar) and one changeup, but he basically spent the night trying to establish a fastball that wasn't there.

In the start against the Phillies, he mixed his pitches a little better -- 66 fastballs, 21 cutters/sliders, four curveballs and two changeups. But in both, the fastballs were poorly located, so his other pitches had no effect.

"I just threw a lot of fastballs and didn't miss any ... barrels," Chatwood said after Tuesday's game. "I think I've got to mix it up better.

"I didn't throw any curveballs, and it's always been my best pitch. I threw a lot of fastballs and didn't miss barrels and kind of put us in a hole. I lost the game for us, pretty much."

Weiss said Chatwood can't simply push the fastball.

"We've got to create some separation in velocity, some variance," Weiss said. "That'll be a focus, too."

The Rockies refuse to use the home-road split as an excuse, although the numbers are startling. In 2013, his last healthy season before the injury, Chatwood's work was considered solid for someone who throws half of his games at Coors -- 3.50 ERA at home, 2.72 away.

It could simply be a slump that happens to a pitcher who has missed a large chunk of time.

"Just get back to work with Chatty," Weiss said. "He's been out of the game for a long time. There are going to be a few hiccups along the way."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. 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.