Chacin expected to start Sunday; Helton improving

Chacin expected to start Sunday; Helton improving

LOS ANGELES -- Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin pitched six strong innings in an extended spring training game in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Tuesday, and if his work between games goes well, he will start Sunday against the Rays at Coors Field, Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.

Chacin (3-0, 1.46 ERA) lived up to his responsibility as the Rockies' No. 1 pitcher in his four starts before suffering a mild back strain on April 19.

What isn't clear is the corresponding move the Rockies will make when Chacin is activated. The club called up righty Tyler Chatwood from Triple-A Colorado Springs to fill in for Chacin. After a competitive but imperfect start against the Braves in his first effort, Chatwood threw six scoreless innings in Monday night's 12-2 victory over the Dodgers.

"He's done well," Weiss said. "Our bottom line is we always want to put our best team on the field. We're always evaluating and trying to figure out what that is. Tyler is a talented kid. There are some things he's been working on down in Colorado Springs. He's made a lot of headway in the things he was working on, but we knew what kind of arm that he had.

"When he's at the bottom of the zone with his fastball, he's really tough."

It's not clear what other move the Rockies could make. Righty Juan Nicasio has struggled at times, but his fastball velocity took a jump in his last start, a win at Arizona. Nicasio is 3-0 with a 4.62 ERA going into his start against the Dodgers on Wednesday night.

In another injury-related development, Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who hasn't played since April 19 because of a left forearm strain, took groundballs and did some throwing during batting practice on Tuesday. He was not wearing the forearm/wrist brace that has been present most of the time during his recovery.

After batting practice, Helton took swings with a fungo bat, then hit off of a tee. It was the first hitting he had done since the injury. Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said Helton will hit in the batting cage and could hit on the field Wednesday if he feels good.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for 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.