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Bettis, Taillon share survivor bond

Tuesday's starters both dealt with testicular cancer in 2017
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Not long ago, Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis called Pirates righty Jameson Taillon to discuss an issue that they have in common. This subject -- pesky finger blisters from the force of throwing a baseball -- was much less difficult than the other one. Both dealt with testicular cancer last season.

With the disease behind them, however, Bettis called this year for advice on dealing with the blister that has kept him off the mound since July 1.

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DENVER -- Not long ago, Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis called Pirates righty Jameson Taillon to discuss an issue that they have in common. This subject -- pesky finger blisters from the force of throwing a baseball -- was much less difficult than the other one. Both dealt with testicular cancer last season.

With the disease behind them, however, Bettis called this year for advice on dealing with the blister that has kept him off the mound since July 1.

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Well, Bettis' blister has healed, and wouldn't you know? Bettis will return from the disabled list to start Tuesday night against the Pirates at Coors Field -- with Taillon opposing him.

"We kind of went through the same thing," Bettis said. "It will be fun. Not a lot of times throughout the game that it would happen.

"I reached out to him when he first got the blister just to try to pick guys' brains around the league to see what they're doing, if they're doing something different from what we're doing, and just trying to get it right."

Video: Morosi on Taillon, Bettis sharing survivor bond

Bettis underwent surgery for testicular cancer in November 2016, but had to undergo chemotherapy when it was discovered late in Spring Training that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. Bettis made it back to the Majors in August. Taillon's cancer, discovered last May, was removed through surgery and he missed six weeks.

This year, Taillon had a blister -- more a laceration -- on his right middle finger and left a start against the Giants after three innings. He didn't miss any time.

Bettis had a 3.27 ERA when he had what was first called a "hot spot" on the finger during a May 22 start at Dodger Stadium. Bettis kept pitching, but his numbers suffered for eight starts (7.59 ERA, .294 batting average against) before the injury flared on July 1. Since then, he has made three injury rehab starts for Triple-A Albuquerque, throwing 95 pitches on Thursday in his last one.

Bettis, who will take the rotation spot of righty Antonio Senzatela (placed on the 10-day DL Sunday with right shoulder soreness), changed the grip on his fastball -- after seeing the risk in his old grip on a slow-motion camera -- and feels good about it.

"It felt normal," Bettis said. "I felt like I was back to where I was before I had any blister problems."

Video: COL@PIT: Bettis hurls 7 1/3 scoreless vs. Pirates

Bettis turned in one of the Rockies' best starts of the season in cold and spitting snow in Pittsburgh on April 17. He held the Pirates scoreless on five hits for 7 1/3 innings.

"He pitched really well at the start of the year," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "He's 5-1; I know his ERA is a little inflated [5.10], but we've seen good work from him. We're optimistic that it can continue moving forward."

Senzatela healing
The Rockies would have had a decision to make, since their rotation is doing well, but Senzatela's DL placement opened a spot for Bettis. Black said Senzatela's shoulder is healing.

The plan, according to Black, is to "give [Senzatela] a few days' rest and do some work in the training room, and I think he's going to play catch in a day or two."

Catching outage
Rookie Tom Murphy did most of the catching during the Rockies' 2-5 road trip to St. Louis and Milwaukee, and struggled. He went 0-for-17 with 13 strikeouts. He also committed two errors and missed an Adam Ottavino third strike in the dirt that allowed the Brewers to force extra innings in Sunday's 5-4, 11-inning Rockies victory.

Chris Iannetta, the primary starter much of the season, went 0-for-6 with two strikeouts on the trip.

Tony Wolters went 1-for-2 in mostly a defensive role.

Having three catchers gives Black the luxury of being able to use either Murphy's or Iannetta's right-handed bat off the bench, since Wolters can enter defensively. But when both are struggling, it's a hole in the lineup.

The Rockies did not obtain a catcher at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and are using a combination of mostly Murphy and Iannetta rather than a starter-backup system.

"We need some production out of the position," Black said. "I think it's coming."

Both hit for higher average at home (Murphy .278, Iannetta .237) than on the road (Murphy .198, Iannetta .192).

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Chad Bettis, Jameson Taillon