In 14th season, Chacín still eyeing 'Rocktober'

Veteran righty driven to make playoffs with team that signed him in '04

July 15th, 2022

DENVER -- Realizing his children love coming to the ballpark brought Jhoulys Chacín back to the game when he considered quitting during the 2020 season. 

But his own teenage dream brought Chacín, 34, back to the Rockies last season after six seasons pitching elsewhere, and keeps him going even though he acknowledges he’s not sure how many pitches are left in his right arm.

After shaking off a slump in which he allowed runs in five straight appearances and tossing two scoreless innings in the Rockies’ 8-5 victory over the Padres at Coors Field on Thursday afternoon, Chacín revealed what is driving him to use every drop of fuel for Colorado.

“One of my dreams has always been pitching in the playoffs for the Rockies -- I’ve pitched against the Rockies,” said Chacín, who started and won a 4-0 decision for the Brewers in Milwaukee against the Rockies in Game 2 of the 2018 National League Division Series. “That’s something that I never thought about: ‘My first playoff game is against the Rockies.’ And we won that series here in Colorado.

“I signed [as an amateur from Venezuela] with the Rockies, and ‘07 was my first year in the United States. I watched all those playoff games when they went to the World Series. That was in Tucson, when we trained there. I was 19, and all of us who were in Arizona would get together to watch our Rockies and look forward to playing for them.”

So count Chacín among those who make the Rockies quite a curious bunch to follow.

The Rockies are 41-49 heading into their last series before the All-Star break, a three-game set with the Pirates. Wednesday’s 10-6 victory over the Padres pulled Colorado out of last place or tied for last in the National League West for the first time since May 9. That’s not usually the stuff of postseason dreams.

But who’s to tell the Rockies not to aspire? They took three of four from the second-place Padres. Thursday ended a stretch of 17 straight games within the division, of which the Rockies won 10. And when you canvas scouts from other teams, they say what the Rockies’ players already know: General manager Bill Schmidt is serious when he says he’s giving the team a chance to reach .500, and with that will do all he can to bolster the roster to make a run to the postseason.

So call Chacín and the Rockies dreamers if you want. They’ll answer to that.

And manager Bud Black is in on the dream.

“If you ask J.C., he’ll probably tell you there are some games he’d want back, or some at-bats,” Black said. “But he’s a pro, and he’s ready for anything, whatever situation arises.

“He’s a great mentor for the rest of the bullpen and the rest of the players -- great experience, great perspective. When he plays, I know that his heart and his head are in it. He’s a great Rockie, and I’d like to see good things happen to good people. He’s a big part of this team in a lot of different ways than just his pitching.”

Chacín's pitching was necessary when Kyle Freeland faltered at the start of the fifth. He yielded a Jorge Alfaro RBI single, but that was the only hit he allowed over two innings. Rookie Jake Bird, who appeared in three of the four games with the Padres, also provided two scoreless innings, giving up one hit while striking out two. Carlos Estévez earned the save as Black gave regular closer Daniel Bard the day off.

The series with the Pirates will complete 17 games without a day off, so the fatigue and effectiveness of the bullpen must be watched closely.

Considering Chacín fills multiple roles -- with runners on base, for multiple innings or the occasional late inning -- how is he feeling?

Maybe he has been dreaming so long that it doesn’t matter.

“I might be a little sore tomorrow,” Chacín said. “But when they tell me to get ready in the bullpen, my mind gets all the soreness out. Everything goes away. It doesn’t matter if I’m throwing 92 or 95 [mph]. You play with everything you have every day and get guys out.”