The Rockies will send their prized right-hander to Connecticut to pitch Thursday for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, Bettis’ first start in game action on a month-long rehab assignment coming back from testicular cancer.
“He’s been pretty level-headed about this whole baseball rehab, but he was pretty excited,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “You could tell he’s ready for this.”
Bettis will pitch two innings, or about 30 pitches, in Hartford’s game against the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate.
His progression through an extended rehab will take Bettis through a schedule that approximates spring training. He probably will pitch five outings of steadily increasing length, culminating in a 90-95 pitch appearance sometime in August.
The Rockies plan for his return as a starter in their rotation, Black said.
“There’s a workman-like disposition to how he’s doing this,” Black said. “He feels healthy. And this is his job.”
Bettis pitched in one spring training game this season, on March 5, but five days later he left Rockies camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., after tests showed his cancer had returned despite surgery in December. He returned to work in Colorado’s clubhouse on June 6 to start a strength regiment, and started pitching to live hitters last week.
“I feel as normal as I can be. Everything is there. I feel back,” he said.
Now he will return to games that count, albeit in the minor leagues. Bettis’ path back to the majors is now in motion.
“He’s throwing 90 mph. He’s done the work for the past month to prepare for this,” Black said. “He’s checked off boxes physically to show he’s ready. And he feels good mentally.”