Rockies rely on Chatwood against Kershaw, Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — A major league general manager could put together a decent pitching staff of players cast off or lost by the Los Angeles Angels.

There’s Ervin Santana and Hector Santiago with the Minnesota Twins, John Lackey with the Chicago Cubs, Kansas City’s Jason Vargas, Zack Greinke in Arizona, and veteran closers Francisco Rodriguez and Fernando Rodney. Among the lesser known is the Colorado Rockies’ Tyler Chatwood, who throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in the middle game of their series Saturday.

Chatwood has become a dependable part of the Rockies’ rotation, and the lone veteran with Jon Gray on the DL. He is 6-7 with a 4.08 this season and has been dominant on the road. He once seemed part of the Angels’ future. He was a second-round pick in 2008 out of East Redlands Valley High School. He quickly impressed, going 13-9 in the minors in his third season, 2010. When a hole opened in the Angels’ rotation, he found himself in the majors in 2011.

There were moments when he looked ready, most of them early in the season. He had eight quality starts in his first 15 outings through the end of June and was 5-4. But his lack of a foundation of innings caught up with him. He began to show the stress, his season blew up and no one on the Angels tried a rescue.

The Angels kept running him out to the mound, and his outings got shorter. Starting in July, the Angels lost 11 of the 12 games he started. He lasted three innings or less in his last five starts. The front office soured on him abruptly, trading him to Colorado.

He was 8-5 in 2013 for the Rockies, then had Tommy John surgery and missed almost all of two seasons. He returned in 2016, going 12-9 with a 3.87 last season, and now the Rockies are contending the NL West title.

Chatwood is a workhorse and team leader. “He sets the bar for us,” Rockies catcher Tony Wolters said after a recent win against the Cubs. “Guys look up to him. He knows how to pitch. His pitches are plus-plus. Now it’s about getting his whole arsenal in control.”

“You hear a lot of different philosophies about saving your stuff for the second time through the lineup,” Chatwood said. “But I think if you put other pitches in guys’ heads, it’s in there from the get-go. If they know you have four pitches and are willing to use all of them, it gets the game going.”

Chatwood has made 12 starts against the Dodgers in his career, going 4-7 with a 3.95 ERA. His best outing was in 2016, when he pitched an eight-inning one-hitter. He faced the Dodgers in April and allowed six hits and five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

He’ll be facing the eminent starter in the NL in Kershaw (10-2, 2.61), and the Dodgers are 13-2 in his starts. He’s pitched in 35 games against the Rockies, with a 20-6 record, 3.13 ERA and .222 opponents average. He’s faced them three times this season, going 2-1 with a 3.60.

Kershaw has thrown in a couple of duds recently. He gave up 11 hits and four runs (three homers) against the Cubs, and last week allowed six hits, four of them home runs, and six runs to the Mets. It was the most he’s allowed in his career. He’s allowed 17 home runs in 2017, but 10 of them came in three games.