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Bettis ready to block noise, rediscover calm

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis can appreciate the cheers. He certainly felt them at Coors Field when he returned on Aug. 14 from testicular cancer. But whether the cheers are for him, or against him on the road, he's at his best when he doesn't actually hear the crowd -- or much else.

"It can be as quiet as if you put your head underwater and you can hear everything that's going on," Bettis said. "That's what it feels like. Or if you have headphones or earphones on -- there's nothing on, but you can see everything that's going on. That's what I mean. You can still hear the background noise, but it's not necessarily to the extent of us having a conversation.

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis can appreciate the cheers. He certainly felt them at Coors Field when he returned on Aug. 14 from testicular cancer. But whether the cheers are for him, or against him on the road, he's at his best when he doesn't actually hear the crowd -- or much else.

"It can be as quiet as if you put your head underwater and you can hear everything that's going on," Bettis said. "That's what it feels like. Or if you have headphones or earphones on -- there's nothing on, but you can see everything that's going on. That's what I mean. You can still hear the background noise, but it's not necessarily to the extent of us having a conversation.

"It would be much more muted than that, almost to the extent where all you're listening to or all you're hearing is your heartbeat. All you're seeing and whatever you want to let in is happening."

Last year was turbulent, but Bettis believes he found serenity in some of his nine starts (2-4, 5.05 ERA), with three games of seven innings and three or fewer runs. He went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against the eventual National League champion Dodgers, and he likely would have faced them in the postseason had the Rockies not lost to the D-backs in the NL Wild Card Game.

Video: ATL@COL: Bettis tosses seven scoreless in return

With a full offseason of health and preparation, Bettis wants to return to the consistent calm he developed in 2015 and '16, when he compiled a 22-14 record with a 4.57 ERA while establishing himself as a staff leader.

"Hopefully I'll be able to explain that to our other starters, and try to get everybody to essentially pitch collectively as a group with a very, very quiet mind," said Bettis, who is giving thanks for support during his crisis by teaming with the Testicular Cancer Society to host the Chad Bettis Charity Classic golf tournament at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., Thursday and Friday.

Tweet from @Rockies: .@cbettis35 has teamed up with the Testicular Cancer Society for the Chad Bettis Charity Classic, a golf and gala event benefiting the @TCSociety.��Details are available at https://t.co/2at2MreOr2. pic.twitter.com/MXiKyqwYLf

Bettis turns 29 on April 26 and has made 98 appearances (69 starts) over parts of five seasons, by far the Rockies' most experienced starter on a team that is spending most of its dollars in the bullpen. The rotation will have to derive leadership from what's in Bettis' head and heart.

"When you let your killer instinct take over, when you do what comes natural to you throughout your life and you're able to do it at your highest level, you cut all that minutiae," pitching coach Steve Foster said. "That's what he is describing."

Bettis cherishes the times he has captured the desired level of quiet. One was on Sept. 5, 2016, when he struck out seven and held the visiting Giants to two hits in his only career shutout, a 6-0 victory.

"Even from the first pitch that got whacked up the middle to the last out the whole game was quiet," Bettis said.

Smooth games, however, are aberrations. Bettis derives confidence from his stressful five-inning performance at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 9, a 6-5 Rockies victory. He had a 5-3 lead when Andre Ethier opened the fifth with a home run to set off a screaming crowd and the park's booming sound system.

"You hear that crowd and you're like, 'OK, now it's a one-run ballgame. Now, let's get this quiet back, and let's continue to make our pitches and let's get out of here,'" Bettis said.

Video: Must C Clips: Ethier hits second homer in two years

Despite a one-out Corey Seager single and wild pitch, Bettis held the lead and ended the inning by freezing Cody Bellinger on a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner.

"He experiences that home run and I don't flicker," Foster said. "I don't hesitate, knowing preparation prevents panic and there's no strength without struggle. And Chad Bettis has been through some struggle."

Bettis' health ordeal began with a diagnosis and surgery in November 2016, then nine weeks of chemotherapy when doctors discovered in March -- just before he and his wife, Kristina, experienced the birth of their first child, a girl -- that the disease had spread to his lymph nodes. He drew strength from his comeback.

"That was a very big teaching: We don't get to control everything that happens to us; we have to just roll with what's going on," Bettis said. "Without my family and my support system and my wife, with Everleigh coming along, it would have been a completely different experience. That being said, I wouldn't have changed anything."

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

Colorado Rockies, Chad Bettis