Chatwood excited to be part of young rotation

Chatwood excited to be part of young rotation

DENVER -- Right-handed pitcher Tyler Chatwood spent most of last season in the Majors at 21, some say before his time. But after being acquired by the Rockies in a trade with the Angels last month, Chatwood suddenly finds himself with pitchers close to his age, all trying to prove that young is not too young.

The pitcher the Rockies hope will be the ace of rotation, Jhoulys Chacin, turns 24 on Saturday. Left-hander Drew Pomeranz and right-hander Alex White, who arrived in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade with the Indians last year, will be 23 when the season starts. With lefty Jorge De La Rosa missing most or all of the first half as he recovers from elbow surgery, no healthy starter on the current 40-man roster has reached his 30th birthday.

But as this potential rotation stands, Chatwood, who turned 22 last month, suddenly isn't a baby-faced anomaly.

"It's definitely exciting," Chatwood said. "To get a chance to be around young guys, pick their brains to see what they're thinking. We can go through the same stuff, and see if we can help one another out. It'll be pretty cool."

Forced into the Angels' rotation at the start of last season because of injuries, Chatwood made 25 starts, appeared in 27 games, and finished 6-11 with a 4.75 ERA. Chatwood's first 15 Major League starts went well -- 5-4, 3.64 ERA -- but struggled in his final 10 starts (1-7, 6.62). The Angels sent him to Triple-A Salt Lake City in August, but he finished the season in the Majors.

Chatwood logged 142 Major League innings. His major challenge was command. He finished with 71 walks and 74 strikeouts. Part of it was that Chatwood, a second-round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, had thrown all of one game at the Triple-A level and just 309 2/3 innings before last season. Chatwood went into the year trying to shore up his changeup, and he added a pitch -- a cut fastball -- that he worked on while facing Major League hitters.

Angels teammates saw a pitcher who was imperfect, but never overwhelmed.

"Tyler's a confident guy," Angels infielder Howard Kendrick said last season. "You can tell in his demeanor. He's definitely not intimidated by anything.

"At this stage, he's predominately a fastball pitcher. When he gets more confident with his breaking ball and changeup, I think he's going to be unbelievable. He spots that fastball in and out, and he's hitting that corner. He's got a chance to be something really special."

The Rockies were drawn to Chatwood because of his mental toughness. He will always face doubts because of his size. He is listed at 6-foot and 185 pounds, and a long-held adage that less-than-tall right-handers are an injury risk. Of course, undersized right-handed power pitchers can be special. Two examples are the Giants' Tim Lincecum and the pitcher to whom Chatwood is most often compared, former Astros and Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt.

"I embrace being compared to Roy Oswalt," Chatwood said. "He's one of the top pitchers. I've followed him since I was growing up. He has a bulldog mentality. He goes after it. Here it is, hit it. It's an honor to be compared to him."

The Rockies believe Chatwood can grow in their environment.

Chatwood said the message he received from manager Jim Tracy and pitching coach Bob Apodaca was not to change what made him successful, just hone it. The Rockies also are willing to be creative with Chatwood or any of their young arms.

Other than Chacin and De La Rosa -- when he is healthy -- the Rockies aren't opposed to using any of their pitchers out of the bullpen and for spot-starts.

The Rockies saw righty Jason Hammel, 29, overcome a slump by pitching out of the bullpen late in the season. Juan Nicasio, 25, and Esmil Rogers, 26, are two strong-armed pitchers who have had some big league moments and could work in the rotation or out of the 'pen. The Rockies also acquired the Twins' Kevin Slowey, who turns 28 on May 4, who has had more success as a starter than a reliever, but is a candidate for both.

"We really think we've got a lot of good arms," Colorado general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "It's been an organizational effort. Not only good arms, but we've got a tremendous amount of competitive, athletic guys. With that comes inexperience. With inexperience is going to come some tough times, some ups and downs. We knew we were on that path when we traded Ubaldo last year.

"We'll bring guys to camp and see how the whole thing flushes out."

Chatwood made two relief appearances in the Majors and just one in 66 Minor League games, but he isn't opposed to bullpen work if necessary. He is happy the Rockies recognize his competitiveness.

"I've been that way ever since I was a little kid," Chatwood said. "My family raised me to be that way. Compete to the best of your ability. Even if you don't have your best stuff, you do what you've got to do to stay in the game and help your team get a win out of it. You have to compete and try to get your team through it. You're not going to have your best stuff every game.

"We definitely have a core of great guys and great players -- a lot of young talent, and some veterans who have a lot of talent and know how to win. I'm excited. It'll be a good experience, and we have a good chance to win a lot of games this year."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.