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Bettis aims to have more fun after cancer surgery

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

PHOENIX -- Amid all the goals he has set for this season, Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis vows not to forget his biggest one -- enjoy playing.

Bettis admitted he didn't at times last season, when he overcame early struggles to finish 14-8 with a 4.79 ERA in 32 starts. In the second half, he was 7-2 with a 3.75 ERA in 14 starts, and having a good time. But after undergoing surgery in late November for testicular cancer, he figures all times pitching -- good and bad -- should be enjoyed.

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PHOENIX -- Amid all the goals he has set for this season, Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis vows not to forget his biggest one -- enjoy playing.

Bettis admitted he didn't at times last season, when he overcame early struggles to finish 14-8 with a 4.79 ERA in 32 starts. In the second half, he was 7-2 with a 3.75 ERA in 14 starts, and having a good time. But after undergoing surgery in late November for testicular cancer, he figures all times pitching -- good and bad -- should be enjoyed.

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In his first Cactus League start in Sunday's 9-4 loss to the Brewers, Bettis gave up one hit -- a Hernan Perez homer to lead off the second -- but nothing else in two innings. He struck out two, both in the first inning.

"I think I was approaching it maybe a little bit too seriously last year," said Bettis, who turns 28 on April 26 and has passed several health checkups since the surgery. "You have to take this game serious. I'm not saying that you can't. But I want to have more fun. I'm going to do that."

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Bettis on his changed outlook

But a perfectionist can change only so much. Bettis caught Brett Phillips looking at a third strike to lead off the game, but his nature led him to critique rather than celebrate.

"At the point in time, I was trying to slow myself down and I was kind of upset," Bettis said after chuckling. "I was just kind of running through my delivery. But no, it felt good. It felt great."

Manager Bud Black likes the enthusiasm of Bettis, who before Sunday pitched simulated games while working on his delivery. The previous two years, Bettis did the same while staying out of early games, so this year's strategy was not surgery-related.

"He was pumped to pitch," Black said. "He made pitches. I thought the stuff was crisp. The one home run was just a missed location on the fastball. I thought he threw the ball well."

Worth noting

• Lefty Kyle Freeland, the Rockies' first-round pick in the 2014 Draft, overcame allowing four runs (three earned) on two hits and two walks in his first outing to throw two spotless innings Sunday. He successfully set up righty hitters by going hard inside, which is his forte.

"That was the highlight today, the way he bounced back from his last outing," Black said.

• Outfielder David Dahl said he expects to learn Monday the exact issue with his back. He has been limited to four at-bats this spring. Dahl isn't sure how much time he will miss, but there is no push to rush him back for Opening Day.

"We haven't talked too much about it, we're just trying to figure out what's going on first," Dahl said.

• Black said utility candidate Chris Valaika has missed recent action with a thumb injury, but will be back on the field soon.

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.

Colorado Rockies, Chad Bettis