SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Bettis put the brakes on talk about competition for his spot in the starting rotation with four dominant, reassuring and scoreless innings in the Rockies’ 3-1 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon.
Bettis struck out five, threw strikes on 32 of his 49 pitches and faced the minimum 12 batters -- Cody Bellinger’s double-play grounder erased Enrique Hernandez’s leadoff single in the second.
Younger, harder-throwing righties Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman have designs on a rotation spot. But Bettis, who was rolling along (2.43 April ERA) before repeated blisters on his middle finger forced him to the bullpen, has been a rotation mainstay since 2015. Bettis' steady mix of four- and two-seam fastballs and his cutter on Sunday means the spot of competition may be the one of lefty Tyler Anderson, who was hit hard Sunday in Mexico by the D-backs and has a 7.88 spring ERA.
“At the day’s end, it’s not necessarily up to me and that’s OK, that’s fine,” Bettis said. “I’m here to win, and I want a ring. So whether that’s starting or in the bullpen, it doesn’t matter to me.”
Bettis did not participate in last year’s postseason, but at times over his Rockies career he has been indispensable. Sunday was a familiar outing. He worked lighting fast, kicking and firing with conviction immediately after receiving the sign from catcher Chris Iannetta.
It was a major improvement from his previous start, when he didn’t give up a run but needed 66 pitches to make 3 2/3 innings.
“We know that his poise and who he is as a pitcher can relate to anything that we give him,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I know that he wants to start. He sees himself as a starting pitcher. So do we.
“And he’s pitching like a big league starting pitcher right now. The blister thing is hopefully a thing of the past, and now we’ve got to just get ready for the season.”
• The Rockies were being shut out on one hit before Mark Reynolds homered to left field off righty Yordy Cabrera in the eighth inning. It was the second spring home run for Reynolds, who started slowly but figures to pick it up as he and Pat Valaika compete for a bench spot.
• Righty Seunghwan Oh gave up three runs on Justin Turner's RBI double and Max Muncy's two-run double. He woke up with a stiff neck and gave up four runs on four hits March 2, and since then has given up five runs and five hits.
• Lefty Mike Dunn threw his fourth scoreless outing this spring. His left-on-left curve drew wild swings from Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson. … Righty Bryan Shaw, a subject of concern all spring after a rough 2018, gave up a one-out Pederson double but had his second scoreless outing in five this spring. The cutter stayed in the 90 mph range and topped out at 91 mph -- a couple ticks below optimal.
Rockies wrap up Mexico Series
Anderson was charged with three runs on seven hits in four innings during Sunday's 5-2 loss to the D-backs to wrap up the weekend’s Mexico Series at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey. He walked one batter and struck out three.
“They came out really aggressive on him and squared up some pitches,” Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond said. “But for him to get through his innings and limit the damage, I thought was him. He’s one of those guys that just keeps battling and keeps making pitches. Despite their aggressiveness, he was still able to get through it and limit the damage. Overall, it was a great outing for him.”
Sunday’s loss did not ruin the memorable weekend in the country.
“It was a great experience,” Redmond said. “Anytime you get an opportunity to break up the schedule of Spring Training and do some stuff a little different, it was fun. I know our players loved it. We brought a solid group of younger players and it was a great experience for them.”
Estevez pushing, but he has time
Right-handed reliever Carlos Estevez, slated to pitch in Monday’s home game against the Athletics, has shown progress in his last two outings, with three strikeouts and no baserunners.
Estevez, 26, has been sent down three times but has been given a fourth-year option (based on injuries and age when signed). But if there is an opening available, he could push for it if he continues the clean delivery, comfortable arm slot and 97-plus-mph velocity of the last two appearances.
“He took a lot of coaching,” Black said. “He tried to do a lot what everybody was telling him to do, which is certainly a nice trait. But ultimately a player has to feel comfortable in his own skin and his delivery. I’m not quite sure Carlos felt that for a long time.”
Estevez, who never appeared in the Majors last season because of oblique and elbow injuries, ultimately resisted calls to shorten his stride toward the plate. At 6-foot-6, he says he is releasing the ball 54 feet, 6 inches from the plate. But he also lowered to a three-quarters delivery, instead of his old over-the-top delivery. The lower slot from a tall man is intimidating for righty batters, and arm and body are in sync.
“Last year, I didn’t have a chance to show what I had worked on the offseason before because I just kept getting hurt, but this year I’m just coming with the same belief that I had last year at the beginning of camp,” he said.
Righty Jon Gray, who has given up one run and struck out 10 in nine Cactus League innings, will face the Athletics and lefty Brett Anderson at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Monday at 2:10 p.m. MT.