Chatwood gets good reviews after intrasquad test

Right-hander on comeback trail since April 2014

February 29th, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- This is the thanks Rockies right-handed pitcher Tyler Chatwood gets from prospect Ryan McMahon?

When a Major League player is on a Minor League rehab assignment, he pays for the clubhouse meal. Chatwood, coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, paid for a feast from Outback Steakhouse after a home game and a highly edible barbecue meal after a road game for Class A Modesto, where McMahon didn't eat nearly as well when Chatwood wasn't around.

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So what did McMahon do Monday? He taunted Chatwood before an intrasquad game, threatening to hit a home run off him. Instead, Chatwood twice froze McMahon with called third strikes.

"He got me on a backdoor cutter, then on a fastball -- both good pitches," McMahon said with a sheepish chuckle.

• Oberg trying to earn long-term role in bullpen

What's important is everyone finished the day in a good mood, mainly because Chatwood passed yet another test on his comeback from an injury that has kept him out of the Majors since April 2014.

During his two innings, Chatwood's fastball hit 91-93 mph. It averaged 93.1 mph before the injury. The cutter is new. It replaces the slider, which was a huge strikeout pitch but a hard one on the elbow. He also used it for a swinging strikeout of Mark Reynolds.

Chatwood appeared in two games at Modesto and joined Asheville for two Class A South Atlantic League playoff games. Those appearances trimmed Chatwood's anxiety for Monday's intrasquad game. But climbing onto the mound was a milepost.

"It's just getting back out there and feeling the aches and pains again, building endurance," Chatwood said. "Hitters, just by their swings, will tell you if your stuff is there or not. But the biggest thing is building up your endurance and getting ready to go six or seven innings."

The Rockies are counting on Chatwood, who since joining the club in a trade with the Angels for catcher Chris Iannetta after the 2010 season is 14-11 with a 4.05 ERA. Chatwood was 10-4 with a 3.92 ERA in 22 games (18 starts) at Coors Field.

The Rockies expect Chatwood, 26, to return to the rotation but are keeping a close eye, since Chatwood had Tommy John surgery as a teenager and not much is known about arms with multiple surgeries so far apart. But the Rockies believe their rotation could improve dramatically with Chatwood and righty Jordan Lyles, who has dealt with left hand and right big toe injuries the last two years but has a healthy throwing arm.

"For a long time, we relied on Jorge De La Rosa, and we are always going to rely on him because he's our ace, but he needs help -- we can't expect him to win every game," Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "'Chatty' has been known to step up and Lyles has also, if healthy."

Chatwood remembered coming up with the Angels and having players such as Brian Fuentes, Torii Hunter and Scott Kazmir not just provide good eats but inspire him. Even though he needled Chatwood about wanting to homer off him, McMahon appreciated Chatwood, who has included McMahon in his offseason workouts.

"He was great to all of us," McMahon said. "He answered all our questions. And when you'd get there to the field, he was the first on there. Watching him work, seeing how focused he is, resonates with us young guys."

Worth noting

• Chatwood's solid pitching wasn't the only intrasquad highlight Monday. Shortstop candidate Trevor Story had a solid single and later worked a lengthy at-bat into a walk against righty Justin Miller. Lefty prospect Harrison Musgrave ended up walking Gerardo Parra after a long at-bat, but he threw a high percentage of strikes. Arenado charged a bouncer for his first breathtaking defensive play of 2016. Catchers Nick Hundley and Dustin Garneau each erased runners at second on steal attempts.

• The Rockies will hold another intrasquad game on Tuesday.