Behind ace, rest of Rox rotation finding groove

Gray leading a revamped staff with Anderson, Bettis and Chatwood

Behind ace, rest of Rox rotation finding groove

DENVER -- For much of this season, Chad Bettis was inspiring all with his battle with testicular cancer, Tyler Anderson was dealing with surgery and rehab for a left knee injury, and Tyler Chatwood was on a long, winding quest for control that took him to the bullpen. But with a dozen games left in the Rockies' attempt to secure a playoff berth, they're right where they expected to be.

Bettis, Anderson and Chatwood are alongside No. 1 pitcher Jon Gray in the Rockies' starting rotation for meaningful games. The Rockies entered Monday leading the Brewers by 2 1/2 games in the race for the second National League Wild Card.

"It's perfect," Anderson said. "It's right where we want to be, in a position to fight for something."

Four rookies -- right-handers German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman, and lefty Kyle Freeland -- have made 90 starts and are a combined 37-27 with a 4.62 ERA. But as the regular-season days dwindle, Marquez, who will start at San Francisco in Tuesday's opener of a six-game road trip, is the only rookie in the current rotation.

"We really appreciate it," Bettis said of the rookies' work. "That being said, we're still not done."

Bettis ready for strong finish

Not everyone is rolling. Bettis, who has made seven starts, has been struggling with his delivery -- he lasted just one-third of an inning and gave up five runs in his last start -- and has had his next start delayed to Saturday while he makes corrections. But other starters are pitching well:

• Gray, 25, tabbed as a future ace when the Rockies made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, is 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA in his last five starts. The understanding of how to keep his fastball out of the heart of the plate, and the development of his curve and willingness to use an occasional changeup have helped.

"I feel like last year, I was mainly a fastball-slider guy," Gray said. "This year, I feel comfortable having a lot of options to go to."

• Chatwood, 27, who had an alarming 63 walks in 21 games (20 starts) when he was pulled from the rotation in early August, has turned it around since returning to the rotation. In three starts, he is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA, with 11 strikeouts and six walks in 13 2/3 innings. Mechanically, the return of his sinking fastball, once he corrected a flaw of landing on the third-base side of the mound instead of straight at the catcher -- was key. His attitude during his time in the bullpen also helped.

"It's just about being a professional," Chatwood said. "Obviously, that isn't the position I wanted to be in. But we're in a playoff hunt so you just want to try to help your team win as many games as you can. This is my sixth or seventh year with the Rockies, and this is the first time I've ever been in this position."

• Anderson, 27, made two trips to the disabled list with the knee problem and had arthroscopic surgery July 3, then had to endure a lengthy rehab. In two appearances since returning, Anderson -- one in relief, another a start -- has 10 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, two walks and a .097 batting average against.

"As a competitor, anybody on this team if we were out any time at all -- if it was a day, five days or 10 days -- you want to get back in there as soon as possible," Anderson said. "Taking as much time as it did, it makes you anxious and you want to come back."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.