Colorado Rockies morning after: We need to talk about Chad Bettis

Chad Bettis made his return to the Colorado Rockies rotation on Tuesday night. It was anything but a triumphant return.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had their way with Bettis at the plate, jumping to an 8-0 lead before chasing the Colorado Rockies starter with two out in the top of the fifth on their way to a 10-2 decision. It was part of what was has been a troubling pattern for Bettis, who has surrendered five or more runs in six of his last seven outings that have lasted four or more innings.

After posting an 8.54 ERA in June and not pitching since an abbreviated start in Los Angeles on July 1 because of blister issues, Bettis had hoped a new grip would serve him well upon his return. However, velocity and location did not.

Bettis opened the game firing four-seam fastballs to Corey Dickerson measuring 89.3 and 89.1 miles per hour according to BasbeballSavant.com. The fastest pitch he threw on Tuesday night was a fourth-inning four-seamer to opposing pitcher Jameson Taillon which clocked in at 92.6 miles per hour.

Pittsburgh’s first run of the game came on a solo homer from Starling Marte in the top of the first. It came in at 91.1 miles per hour and the location was anything but ideal. Neither was the location of the 90.4 mile per hour fastball that ended up being a three-run homer off the bat of Jordy Mercer. Look where it ended up over the plate.

Simply put, that’s batting practice for the Pirates … and they took advantage of it. Bettis, however, thought his location was where it needed to be in the game’s opening stages.

“I felt like it was pretty good early,” Bettis told Rox Pile and other reporters after the game.

Colorado manager Bud Black painted a different picture.

“It looked to me just the way Chris (Iannetta) was catching certain pitches, it looked like his command was off,” Black said. “He wasn’t locating the fastball. I think it started in the first inning. The pitch to Marte was up over the plate. It was intended to be down. The pitch to Mercer, which I told Kyle (Newman of The Denver Post) was a back-breaker, was intended I think to be inside, in on his hands, or off the plate. I think that ball was out over the plate.”

Black said what he saw on Tuesday night was not indicative of the type of pitcher he believes Bettis to be.

“He’s a strike-thrower,” Black said. “He keeps the ball down. He changes speeds. Chad, when he’s on, hits the glove. I don’t think we saw the best of Chad today, hitting the glove.”

If the Rockies are counting on Bettis to be a part of their plans as they chase another Rocktober appearance, nights like Tuesday simply can’t happen any longer. The 29-year-old right-hander gave up nine earned runs on eight hits, including a pair of home runs, as Pittsburgh quickly slugged the Rockies into submission.

There has been talk about Bettis moving to the bullpen when Antonio Senzatela rebounds from his sore shoulder. Could Bettis become the team’s long reliever in the absence of Chris Rusin? Possibly, but the issues that showed themselves on Tuesday night will still have to be resolved, whether Bettis is pitching long or short stints.

Do the Rockies give Bettis another start to see if he can iron things out? Does he move to the bullpen? If so, is he replaced by Senzatela or Jeff Hoffman or another pitcher from Triple-A? It’s a decision Colorado will need to make in time for Sunday’s series finale against the Dodgers at Coors Field, adding another layer of importance to the thought process.

So what does Bettis think he needs to work on before his next potential start?

“I think minor adjustments,” Bettis said. “There’s nothing major that needs to happen.”

Well, unfortunately, there actually might be. Bettis has seen a lot of crooked numbers posted against him in recent starts. Something has to change.