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Black eager to see Bettis at full strength

Righty throws six scoreless in back-field game, draws rave reviews
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis has snapped into compete mode.

On Saturday, Bettis threw six scoreless, four-hit innings against the Brewers, with five strikeouts and one walk in a back-field game.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis has snapped into compete mode.

On Saturday, Bettis threw six scoreless, four-hit innings against the Brewers, with five strikeouts and one walk in a back-field game.

View Full Game Coverage

"My command was working, and everything has started to take shape," Bettis said Sunday. "The first 'X' number of starts might be to work on stuff, things I wanted to feel -- mechanical or pitches. The last couple of starts have been more approaching it like a game. It's been nice to be able to go out there and command the ball as well as I have."

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Bud Black was managing the Cactus League game against the Brewers while Bettis was pitching, but reports from bullpen coach Darren Holmes and director of pitching operations Mark Wiley were stellar.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

But folks around the Rockies have been giving Black positive reports about Bettis ever since Black took the job in November 2016.

"Everything that I've heard from the pitching coaches, the coaches, the front office about Chad and how he goes about his business and him getting stronger as each month goes on, I think we're all anxious to see Chad at full strength," Black said. "We're seeing that now. He feels good physically. His arm feels good. He's progressing right along, making his starts, making his bullpens, building his pitch count. He's in a good spot."

Still testing and tuning

While the Rockies used prospects Sam Howard and Yency Almonte in the 13-0 Cactus League loss Sunday to the Giants, they started lefty Kyle Freeland -- most likely a rotation member to start the year -- in a Triple-A game against the Angels. Facing a lineup that included Albert Pujols, Chris Young and Martin Maldonado, Freeland threw 81 pitches over 4 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on five hits, with two walks and no strikeouts.

Video: SEA@COL: Freeland on his effective performance

Freeland has been working on a changeup this spring. That and his curve were projects Sunday. Catcher Chris Iannetta, who went 3-for-4, kept a close watch on Freeland's mechanics.

"The curveball and changeup are two pitches I've been working on this offseason and prior offseasons," Freeland said. "The fact that I'm getting good results from them is making me real happy."

After showing up in regular-season condition in an effort to make the team last year, Freeland and other young starters were told to pace themselves before camp and devote Spring Training to specific growth assignments. With the season near, Freeland said his approach will begin to change.

"You want to start getting that mindset of 'let's get the ball rolling in the right way,' where it feels like games that truly matter toward our record," Freeland said. "That's what Spring Training is for, things that you want to get yourself ready for during the season."

Feeling better

Catcher Tom Murphy returned to the lineup Sunday after being hit by the long backswing of the Angels' Jefry Marte during Thursday's game. Murphy said Marte's bat hit him in the unprotected area between the top of the mask and the backplate.

Scooping it up

Ian Desmond arrived at camp saying he spent most of his time working out in left field, but the re-signing of Carlos Gonzalez figures to push him to first base -- which was the plan when the Rockies signed him to a five-year, $70 million contract before last season.

Video: COL@LAA: Desmond belts his second homer of the inning

Desmond made two nice plays at first Sunday -- a nice scoop after a good stab and throw from Trevor Story to retire Austin Jackson, the game's leadoff hitter, and a nimble move behind the bag on Andrew McCutchen's fifth-inning grounder. With Nolan Arenado and second baseman DJ LeMahieu possessing multiple Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, and Story a daring and underrated defender, the infield needs sure hands at first base to give the others confidence to attempt hard-to-complete plays.

Injury update

• Infielder Pat Valaika, the Rockies' main right-handed pinch-hitter, struck out in the eighth against Giants lefty Josh Osich in his first plate appearance since Feb. 25. He had been nursing a left oblique injury.

• Righty Jeff Hoffman, limited to two outings because of a sore right shoulder, is nearing the point of throwing bullpen sessions. Black said he will be pitching in April. That would most likely be either on an injury-rehab assignment or an option.

Family affair

The Giants brought Minor League infielder Jonah Arenado -- yes, Nolan's brother -- and used him as a pinch-runner in the top of the sixth, then at third base. When Jonah entered, he was at second, with Nolan 90 feet away.

Tweet from @Rockies: Family > pic.twitter.com/TRJ7VAb99u

"We've never played against each other," Nolan said. "It was pretty cool to be out there with him. It was cool to be out there with him, good to see him make a good play. It was kind of weird watching him hit. I wanted to get out of the inning, but I wanted to see him get a hit at the same time."

And if Jonah were sliding into third?

"I would tag him really hard," Arenado said, chuckling.

Up next

Righty Jon Gray, the presumed Opening Day starter, will face the Rangers on Monday at Surprise, Ariz., for a 7:05 p.m. start. The game can be seen on MLB.TV or MLB Network or heard on Gameday Audio.

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