DENVER -- Darren Holmes had been down the Mile High Road before.
Holmes was a member of the Colorado Rockies' original bullpen, spending two years calling Mile High Stadium home and being part of the group that christened Coors Field by claiming the National League Wild Card berth back in 1995.
So anxious as Holmes was to be part of helping redirect the Rockies when he was hired as the bullpen coach prior to last season, he admits the skeptic in him surfaced during his first organizational meeting as he listened to the rave reviews about the arsenal of arms being developed in the farm system.
"At Spring Training last year, I saw what we had; and from a depth standpoint, I didn't see it," he said. "The front-office guys said there were some great arms on the way."
Turns out those were not fisherman's tales they were telling.
"I saw the reason this spring for all the excitement," said Holmes. "It is legit."
The future is slowly starting to surface in the big leagues with starting pitchers Chad Bettis, being allowed to regain his full arsenal of pitches thanks to the hiring of Holmes and pitching coach Steve Foster, and Tyler Chatwood, showing every indication that he has fully recovered from a second Tommy John surgery.
It was Bettis who provided the heavy lifting that allowed Colorado to break a seven-game home losing streak that equaled the longest in-season streak the club has endured since Coors Field opened in 1995.
Bettis worked six dominating innings, allowing the Rockies to take a 7-1 lead, tired a bit in the seventh and then watched Colorado survive a late Arizona rally to pull out an 8-7 victory thanks to a Nolan Arenado tiebreaking home run in the eighth and a 1-2-3 ninth from offseason addition Jake McGee that included a game-ending popup by Paul Goldschmidt.
Not too shabby for a guy who two years ago was destined for long relief, the Bill Geivett administration having eliminated a changeup that was Bettis' second-best pitch. Now he's got that offspeed pitch back, which was chalking up high-60-mph readings on the radar gun Wednesday, to go with a mid-90s fastball. With a developing curveball and a slider to turn to as well, Bettis has gotten the confidence back that he had when the Rockies made him a second-round Draft choice out of Texas Tech in 2010.
But the future is much more than Bettis, Chatwood, resurgent Eddie Butler and former No. 3 overall Draft pick Jon Gray, who are current members of Colorado's rotation.
"Some of the guys who used to work for me called me during Spring Training," said Sandy Johnson, who is retired now but at one time was among the game's elite in terms of scouting and player development. "They said they haven't seen a group of arms like the Rockies had on the back fields [Minor League camp] in ages."
They were right, said Holmes.
There are the additions from outside, like Jeff Hoffman, who is 2-2 but has a 2.16 ERA in seven starts at Triple-A Albuquerque, and Miguel Castro, a closer who came from the Blue Jays last July in the Troy Tulowitzki trade. There is German Marquez, who came along with McGee from the Rays during the offseason for Corey Dickerson. He is 3-1 with a 1.03 ERA on a Double-A Hartford staff that also inlcues Kyle Freeland (4-2, 2.20), Harrison Musgrave (5-0, 1.30) and closer Matt Carasiti, who has 10 saves, a 2.03 ERA and has allowed one walk while striking out 15 in 13 1/3 innings.
"Carasiti, don't overlook him," said Holmes. "He's a legit closer. You're talking 95 to 97 with a split, a big-time split."
And then there is Castro as well as current big league relievers Gonzalez Germen and Carlos Estevez.
"I went to Spring Training six weeks early and there were a lot of guys down there throwing," said Holmes. "I got a feel for what is coming in the Minor Leagues. You take those guys, mix in a Butler and a Gray, and put them with Bettis and Chatwood. … I'm thinking, 'Holy cow. This is what [the front office] was talking about. This is special.'"
Now comes the big decision. Now Colorado has to decide who is going to be ready and when.
Can the Rockies race an arm or two to the big leagues with the idea the young pitchers can step in and make a difference for them in an NL West race that isn't showing signs of being as challenging as folks thought?
"That's a decision others are going to make," said Holmes.
And after what Holmes has seen, he has full trust that "the others" are capable.