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Bettis' recovery takes major step

MLB.com

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis took a major step toward returning to a Major League mound on Tuesday afternoon.

Bettis threw batting practice for the first time in his comeback from testicular cancer, which was diagnosed in November. Right-handed hitter Pat Valaika and left-hander Mike Tauchman took swings against Bettis, who threw 25 pitches.

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DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis took a major step toward returning to a Major League mound on Tuesday afternoon.

Bettis threw batting practice for the first time in his comeback from testicular cancer, which was diagnosed in November. Right-handed hitter Pat Valaika and left-hander Mike Tauchman took swings against Bettis, who threw 25 pitches.

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"It's nice to be talking about mechanics instead of how my strength is, how my recovery is," Bettis said. "Mechanically, I felt good, threw a couple of curveballs that just broke too early and I spiked them, but overall I felt really good."

Soon after being diagnosed, Bettis underwent surgery to remove a testicle. He had expected to be ready for Spring Training, but a blood test in March revealed that the cancer had spread, and he underwent chemotherapy.

Doctors declared Bettis cancer-free early last month, and he returned to the Rockies on June 6. He threw his first bullpen session on June 19; Tuesday's outing is the next step in increasing his intensity, manager Bud Black said.

Black compared Bettis' status now with where a typical starting pitcher would be in Spring Training. Now that Bettis has thrown three bullpen sessions and a BP, he will throw another BP this weekend, potentially followed by a few rehab starts.

"Usually in Spring Training, when that second batting practice happens, he starts a game," Black said, "and he usually goes two innings, 30 pitches or so, and then there's a progression to build pitch count.

"If you really think about it, position players don't need six weeks," Black added. "Relief pitchers don't need six weeks. Starting pitchers need six weeks. He's a starting pitcher, so part of the six weeks has already taken place for Chad."

Bettis threw 63 pitches on Tuesday: 25 during batting practice, 30 in the bullpen session beforehand and eight warmup pitches.

Bettis has a few blood tests coming up in the next couple weeks, and his teammates are excited for his looming return -- some have started wearing supportive T-shirts in the clubhouse. Third baseman Nolan Arenado said it's good to see Bettis "doing what he loves to do" back on the mound.

"He's always brought energy, he's brought positivity, he's always here helping guys out whenever they need him, watching video with people," Arenado said. "He's just a positive impact on our team."

Max Gelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver.

Colorado Rockies, Chad Bettis