SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Playing catch isn't just for fun. That's what Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis has taught rookie rotation hopeful Jeff Hoffman."Just out there playing catch and getting loose isn't good enough -- you have to demand a lot out of yourself, and Chad really takes that to the next
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Playing catch isn't just for fun. That's what Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis has taught rookie rotation hopeful Jeff Hoffman.
"Just out there playing catch and getting loose isn't good enough -- you have to demand a lot out of yourself, and Chad really takes that to the next level," Hoffman said. "I made it a point to take that to heart and made him my catch partner this year, and over the first month or two months we played catch together, he made me a better pitcher."
Hoffman can't wait to have another catch with Bettis. And the Rockies long for the day he's back on the mound.
Bettis announced Friday that he will undergo chemotherapy after a lymph node biopsy revealed that testicular cancer -- for which he had surgery on November 29 -- has spread.
Bettis, 27, noted that blood-tumor markers still say the disease is undetectable, and he is encouraged because of the disease's high cure rate. But in the meantime, his teammates vow to pull hard for him as he undergoes treatments in Arizona beginning soon.
Bettis went 14-8 with a 4.79 ERA last season -- 7-2, 3.75 after the All-Star break. Drafted in the second round in 2010, Bettis missed 2012 with an elbow issue, broke into the Majors miscast as a reliever, but has developed into not only a solid starter but a respected figure in the clubhouse.
Last season, for example, Bettis devised and administrated a rating system for pitchers involving key emphasis points. While Bettis was struggling in the first half, his actions let teammates know that he needed to reach the standards he set.
"He's always in our thoughts and prayers, and we're never going to be as full as a team with him not there," said righty Jon Gray, whose talent may have him in a leadership role in Bettis' absence. "He's one guy I really look up to. I just hope he's OK.
"He's very professional. I see he works a lot harder than others. He's always on time - he was always better at that than me. Not just how much he works but the way he works, he goes about it the right way. It's something I want to be able to do too. He's like a big brother I look up to."
Righty reliever Jason Motte, who for several years has run a foundation to help cancer patients and their families, said he's been lending Bettis a supportive ear.
"His wife is pregnant -- they're going to have a little one at some point," Motte said. "That's tough, but we have guys in this clubhouse that are going to be there for him, no matter what. Having a good support group, people that care about you, is a big thing."
Rockies catcher Tony Wolters said, "We're all trying to stay positive and he [Bettis] is staying positive. He's a strong dude. I have to doubt he's going to do whatever it takes to get all the bad stuff out of him."
Hoffman said Bettis used to talk him through games of catch while he learned, until they knew each other well enough that communication became non-verbal.
"I'm really thankful that Chad to me under his wing in that way," Hoffman said.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.