Chatwood ready to assume greater role on staff
Right-hander part of revamped rotation that has Rockies optimistic for '14
DENVER -- After dialing down his motion and emotion on the mound last year, right-hander Tyler Chatwood has the Rockies a little more excited about their rotation going into 2014.
Sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs at the start of the year to continue honing his control, Chatwood was in the Majors for good by late May and went 8-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 20 starts. The Rockies were 12-7 when Chawood started, and he joined Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin as pitchers in whom the Rockies put their faith.
Rockies pitchers and catchers are due at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Feb. 15, and their first workout is two days later.
"I started to feel really good, a lot more consistent than I had been in the past," Chatwood said by phone. "I was repeating my delivery, finishing out front. I learned a lot about myself last year. I don't have to try as hard as I can. I could back off the intensity, yet I could still throw hard and stay in my delivery a lot easier."
Starting pitching was one of many areas the Rockies addressed after finishing 74-88 last year for their second straight last-place finish in the National League West. They acquired lefty Brett Anderson from the Athletics and penciled him into a spot. They fostered competition for righty Juan Nicasio's spot by trading with the Red Sox for lefty Franklin Morales (who will be used out of the bullpen if he's not in the rotation) and with the Astros for righty Jordan Lyles.
Chatwood was pressed into 142 innings with the Angels in 2011 because of injuries to the rotation, and he issued 71 walks as a result. The Rockies acquired the 24-year-old for catcher Chris Iannetta before the 2012 season, and Chatwood spent that campaign partly in the bullpen and partly in Colorado Springs. He finished 5-6 with a 5.43 ERA but showed enough potential as a starter that the Rockies made a quick decision last spring to let him go back to Colorado Springs to complete his development.
The plan worked. Chatwood has a mid 90s fastball, but he made dramatic progress by being able to hit spots with his slider and his curveball, the latter of which is a weapon on the road more than at home.
The statistical concern about Chatwood is a low strikeout rate (5.1 per nine innings in his career), but last season he showed he could counter that by inducing ground balls, especially when he needed them. Despite not starting the season in the Majors and missing all of August with right elbow inflammation -- plus dealing with left hamstring tightness -- Chatwood forced 17 double-play grounders, tied for 18th in the league.
Chatwood also believes he'll answer the health question.
"It all happened on the same road trip," Chatwood said. "My elbow was sore and I could feel something in my triceps, and one day I was running in the outfield and I tweaked my hamstring. But I did a lot of physical therapy after the season and everything came along. I feel ready for the year."
Rockies manager Walt Weiss is confident that Chatwood can repeat the delivery he found last year.
"Sometimes that happens with maturity," Weiss said. "Chatty was able to find his focus and make pitches. He's got good action to his pitches, and he doesn't have to red-line when he's out there. He has plenty of stuff, and he started to figure that out last year."