WASHINGTON -- Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt was so excited to face live hitters -- for the first time since May 31 -- that he worked uncharacteristically quickly.
Betancourt, on the 15-day disabled list with a right groin strain, threw 30 pitches before Friday's game against the Nationals. Tyler Colvin, one of the hitters to face him, said the stuff looked good, even at a pace he had never seen from Betancourt, who is known for being deliberate between pitches.
"It was good, his fastball had something on it, the changeup was good and he didn't take much time in between, and he looked like he was really letting it go at the end, too," Colvin said. "I didn't think about it until we took a break after 20 pitches, then he went back after it. But he's professional and knows what he's doing. When he's back in games, he'll take his time."
Betancourt will face hitters again when the team goes to Boston and hopes to be activated shortly after the team returns home Thursday. He would rather not go on a Minor League rehab assignment.
The fact Betancourt could throw offspeed pitches without worrying excited him.
"With the breaking ball and the changeup, you have to stay back a little bit longer than the fastball," Betancourt said. "I was able to throw every pitch today, and I didn't feel anything."
The bullpen's depth has been tested with the injuries to Betancourt and right-hander Edgmer Escalona (who has thrown a bullpen session and will face hitters when the team is in Boston as he rehabs right elbow inflammation). But despite starting their current road trip 0-4, the Rockies entered Friday night just three games behind the National League West-leading D-backs and figure to still be within striking distance when the pitchers return. The offense also will be missing arguably baseball's best shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, for the next four to five weeks with a fractured rib.
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.