A year wiser, Bettis making major strides

A year wiser, Bettis making major strides

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies let right-handed pitching prospect Chad Bettis display his arm last year. But Bettis is showing his knowledge this spring, and the result could make the final roster choices difficult.

Called up as a starter last August, Bettis went 1-3 with a 5.64 ERA in 16 games, half of them starts. Throughout his career, he was seen as a future closer. While some of that power was evident last year, it was even clearer he had to learn how and when to use it.

By figuring out his mid-90s fastball and changeup were his best pitches, Bettis has made a major leap. He hasn't given up a run in five appearances this spring and has five strikeouts and one walk in five innings. Bettis' one inning with two strikeouts during Friday night's 2-2 tie with the Mariners was especially electric.

Bettis, 24, a second-round pick out of Texas Tech in 2010, analyzed his performances and took advice from pitching coach Jim Wright, assistant coach Bo McLaughlin and his pitching coach at Double-A Tulsa, Darryl Scott. Bettis also put in work.

"Some of it is mechanical, but it's more grip and pressure points, and then it just becomes feel," said Bettis, who can still mix his slider and curve. "It's about being consistent with that."

The Rockies will have to decide whether to keep seven relievers or their customary eight. Then they'll have to figure if there is a spot for a young, hard-throwing reliever, with Bettis and Chris Martin (1-0, 3.38 ERA in five games) possibly fitting the bill.

"There are going to be decisions made, some tough ones, but we're going to need all these guys at some point," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "Just because certain guys don't break camp with us doesn't mean we're not going to see them."

If he doesn't make the team, Bettis could go to Triple-A Colorado Springs as a closer. The ninth inning in the Majors is a career goal, and he is showing the raw ability to move toward the late innings if the Rockies need him.

"I would like the opportunity somewhere down the road to try and earn a closing job somewhere, but right now it's just trying to make the team better," Bettis said. "You never hope or wish upon anybody that there are injuries, but if that happens, someone has to step in."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.