Rockies’ Bettis returns from cancer battle to face Braves
DENVER — The long wait is over for Chad Bettis. His comeback is complete.
The Colorado Rockies right-hander was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had a testicle removed in November. He regained his strength after chemotherapy, and he built up his pitch count with a month of rehab starts.
Bettis will make his 2017 major league debut Monday against the Atlanta Braves.
Article continues below ...
Julio Teheran (7-10, 5.25 ERA) will oppose Bettis, who last pitched in the majors on Sept. 30.
Bettis was able to prepare for spring training and began on schedule until March 10 when a regular cancer screening revealed some abnormalities. A biopsy showed the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes.
Bettis began chemotherapy on March 20, enduring 21 infusions in a nine-week period. His final treatment was May 16.
On June 6, Bettis rejoined the Rockies and began working out. He started a minor league rehab on July 13 and went 0-3 with a 4.24 in six games (five starts). He struck out 17 and walked seven in 23 1/3 innings at Double-A and Triple-A, making his final rehab start Tuesday.
“There was a critical eye on him really the last couple starts,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Our evaluators in the minor leagues felt that he was ready from a delivery standpoint, a strength standpoint, a stuff standpoint — all the factors that determine if a guy’s ready to pitch in the major leagues. And he checked off all those boxes.”
Bettis, who is 2-0 with a 4.61 ERA in three career games (two starts) against Atlanta, said weeks ago that he was hoping to make his first start at Coors Field. That will be the case, and the greeting Bettis gets when he leaves the dugout to start the game should be thunderous.
“The moment I take the mound (Monday), emotion will take its course, and it will be whatever the moment will be,” Bettis, 28, told MLB.com. “Am I excited that it’s (Monday)? Of course I am. I’m just trying to not get ahead of myself. I have started studying the Braves. I need to prepare myself.”
The Rockies (65-52) return home after getting swept in three games at Miami — the first time they were swept there since Aug. 27-29, 2004. Colorado is coming off a 1-4 road trip that began in Cleveland. The Rockies scored no more than three runs in any of the five games and went 5-for-39 (.128) with runners in scoring position on the trip.
The Rockies and Braves will play for the first time this season. Atlanta (52-63) ended a five-game losing streak Sunday, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3, just its seventh win in 25 games since reaching .500 on July 16.
Teheran, who is 4-1 with a 2.53 ERA in seven career starts against the Rockies and 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts at Coors Field, is 0-4 with a 7.00 ERA in his past five games.
In 18 games at Coors Field, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has a .280 average and .964 OPS with five homers and 15 RBIs. He had his fifth three-hit game of the season Saturday and added two hits Sunday.
Freeman went back to first base on Aug. 1 after willingly moving to third base and playing 16 games there and making just one error. The initial position switch occurred when he came off the disabled list on July 4 after missing 44 games with a left wrist fracture.
Matt Adams, acquired to play first base in Freeman’s absence, has replaced injured Matt Kemp in left field. When the Braves promoted Ozzie Albies to play second base, veteran Brandon Phillips moved from second to third, and Freeman went back to first.
“Freddie is one of the best team leaders and one of the most selfless players I’ve ever met,” Braves general manager John Coppolella told The New York Times. “All this guy wants to do is win. He’s been an oak throughout this rebuild.
“The first hint he even had of winning, he was willing to put himself in harm’s way and move across the diamond to help make the Braves better.”