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Scottsdale, Ariz — The Colorado Rockies have a young pitching staff.
Jorge De La Rosa is the all-time leader for the Rockies in most statistical categories and may retire as the unquestioned greatest pitcher in Rockies history, or at the very least the most prolific. After him, Tyler Chatwood (26) has pitched in approximately 200 innings in his big league career with the Rox, Chad Bettis (26) is at 183 IP, Jordan Lyles (25) is right around 175 IP, and Jon Gray has tossed just over 40 innings and maintains rookie eligibility for the 2016 season. That’s a combined total of 598 IP.
In his Rockies career, excluding time spent in Baltimore and Kansas City, De La Rosa has pitched almost twice the number of innings as the rest of the Rockies staff combined at 1,005 IP.
But “De La” can’t carry the whole load on his own, and as Charlie Blackmon recently reminded BSN, this team can use all the leaders it can get.
I caught up with Bettis to talk about how far he has come in the last few years, and how strange it is to look up and realize he is one of the most successful and experienced pitchers on the current staff.
“For me the biggest part is just to earn the respect of my teammates,” says Bettis, “Once that comes, your words are heard, and that’s big for me. To earn the respect, that’s all I’m trying to do.”
Gray is in a different situation but is still widely regarded as the highest-ceiling talent the team has seen in some time. It must be strange, I said, to be coming into a rookie season but still be looked at to “lead” the staff, if not in terms of clubhouse presence, in terms of results.
“It’s good because people know what you can do,” Gray says. “It’s just trying not to create pressure for yourself. Let things go as they are. Trust in what you can do, control what you can. Everything else will take care of itself.”
The staff may be inexperienced, but they have a battery mate who is anything but. Nick Hundley is a catcher these young pitchers refuse to take for granted.
“The guy has been there and done it,” laughs Gray. “There’s no better person to trust back there. He knows what he’s doing, he knows what you can do, and I take his advice as much as I can and go out and grind with him.”
The advanced metrics don’t love Hundley’s framing skills, but Bettis reminds us that more than any other position on the diamond, catcher’s can’t be evaluated on statistics alone.The catcher’s attitude and ability to set the tone, can make a significant difference.
“He’s a high energy guy. That’s big,” Bettis argues. “His expectations for each of us are huge and his own expectations for himself are set very high. It’s big for me to have a guy like that back there and set the bar high.”
When the Colorado Rockies start playing games that count in April, they will do so with a lot of unknown quantities. It’s hard to say exactly what the team will get from Gray, Bettis, Lyles or Chatwood. The cynical way to view this is to say that none of these young men can be counted on. This is true. But what is also true is that none of them has yet to reach their full potential. You won’t want to be standing in the batter’s box if they ever do.