Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Bettis finds purpose in first camp after cancer

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Bettis' black hair stands high, his shoulders and torso are trim, and any sign of the battle with testicular cancer that affected him last season is gone. But Bettis, a right-handed pitcher determined to get back to leading the Rockies' rotation, does carry one aspect of his battle: the desire to help.

At any point when not working, Bettis will take time to text a cancer patient in Denver, or worldwide. Wednesday was Valentine's Day, and also the first workout day for pitchers and catchers, and he didn't mind sharing the love.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Bettis' black hair stands high, his shoulders and torso are trim, and any sign of the battle with testicular cancer that affected him last season is gone. But Bettis, a right-handed pitcher determined to get back to leading the Rockies' rotation, does carry one aspect of his battle: the desire to help.

At any point when not working, Bettis will take time to text a cancer patient in Denver, or worldwide. Wednesday was Valentine's Day, and also the first workout day for pitchers and catchers, and he didn't mind sharing the love.

Rockies Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

"Now it's just kind of what I'd do," Bettis said. "I never thought that I'd be connected to some of the people that I'm connected with in ways that I am. Just to be there, listen to them, talk to them, give them some support; that's what I'm here for."

Not only is Bettis renewed, but in many ways he is new. He is a bit more trim than last year, when he had to battle to keep up his strength -- he managed to return in August and go 2-4 with a 5.05 ERA in nine understandably up-and-down starts. He actually revisited an old workout for overall fitness -- swimming.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Moving out here, we didn't really have a pool, and I wasn't going to stay here [at the Rockies' Salt River Fields at Talking Stick training center] an extra 30 minutes and swim in our underwater treadmill," said Bettis, who might have started in the postseason had the Rockies not suffered an 11-8 loss to the D-backs in the National League Wild Card Game. "So we ended up getting a pool at our house. It's just something that is relaxing, but also it's a good workout, and it kind of resets you."

In or out of the water, Bettis seeks strength and flexibility -- traits he will need earlier this year than in springs of the past. Before last year, Bettis stayed out of games until the middle or latter part of Spring Training to work on mechanics. The plan worked in 2015 and '16 (22-14, 4.57 ERA in 52 starts), but he's ready to jump into games from the beginning this year. Manager Bud Black, pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes (who has helped with Bettis' mechanics) felt he was ready for the change.

Video: 2017 MLB Awards: Best Moment - Bettis' great return

"The things I had worked on in past years have been huge -- they helped me a lot," Bettis said. "They actually approached me about getting into competition earlier. We'll see how it goes, but I'm ready."

Dahl watch: Left-handed-hitting outfielder David Dahl, who didn't appear in the Majors last season because of a rib injury but posted an .859 OPS with seven homers in 63 games in 2016, has been taking full batting practice for two weeks. He was shut down last August and wasn't cleared to swing a bat until early January, but all is going well.

"I've felt good, pain-free, and I'm not worried about anything anymore, and just letting it go," Dahl said.

Dahl is in competition with Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman for a roster spot, along with playing time.

Espy working his way back: Rockies hitting coach Duane Espy reported to camp on crutches. Recently, he suffered a fall in his garage and tore both quadriceps tendons. However, he is gaining flexibility and says he will soon be without the crutches and working toward full health.

Gray, down and away: Right-hander Jon Gray, last year's No. 1 starter, said in his less than full-bore sessions before camp, he was hitting glove-side and arm-side targets with his fastball. From his days at the University of Oklahoma, Gray has enjoyed working inside against both right- and left-handed hitters. But he realizes he needs more.

"I want to be able to throw it down and away and get ground balls," Gray said. "I worked on it last year with throwing down and away to lefties, and that got a lot better. I can't always be inside. I want to work my fastball command away.

"All my bullpens so far, we have those little strings [framing the strike zone] out there and I want to hit the bottom one. I know if I get my fastball commanded, both sides of the plate down at the strings, everything else is going to be great, too."

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, David Dahl, Jon Gray