Rockies' Chad Bettis optimistic after bout with cancer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) One night in November, Chad Bettis found a lump in the wrong place before going to sleep.

The Colorado Rockies pitcher then gave himself an ultimatum: ''If I found it again in the morning, I needed to step up and say anything.''

He followed through and received a diagnosis of testicular cancer. He underwent surgery to remove one of his testicles on Nov. 29.

There have been no complications, and subsequent tests, including results he got at a doctor's visit on Wednesday, have shown him to be cancer free.

''I feel great,'' Bettis said. ''I'm ready to go.''

The right-hander realizes he can be a source of inspiration for people dealing with cancer and is eager to spread the word that the disease can be beaten.

Whether his message ''reaches everybody or just one person, that's good,'' he said. ''The key is early detection.''

At the time he caught the problem, he wasn't feeling poorly. ''I wasn't in any pain. I wasn't fatigued. I felt normal. It was just a little lump,'' he said.

He still will undergo more CT scans and blood work, though with less frequency, from every three months to every six months then annually.

Bettis' situation has drawn more attention to one other aspect of his life: He really can pitch.

The past two seasons have represented a breakthrough for a player who had previously been inconsistent. In 2015, he went 8-6 with a 4.23 ERA in 20 starts. Last season, Bettis had 32 starts, going 14-8 with a 4.79 ERA.

This season, he likely will be at or near the top of the team's starting rotation.

He has been in the Rockies organization for seven years, but, ''A couple years ago was the first time I could honestly say that I felt really comfortable being able to throw a fastball down and away whenever I wanted to. That had a lot to do with the success I've had the last couple of years. Everything works off my fastball.''

He seemed to realize just how effective he can be when he threw a two-hit shutout vs. San Francisco - at home at Coors Field, no less - in a 6-0 win on Sept. 5.

''I was comfortable with all my pitches,'' he said. ''Everything was working that day. And so it was a shutout. And once you get one, you get two. Once you get two, you want three.''

The 2016 season, his first as a starter for an entire season ''was a big step for me, but also a stepping stone,'' not an end point, he said.

''I'm a Chad Bettis fan,'' said Bud Black, the Rockies' new manager. ''I like his weapons.''

Bettis' delivery sets up for quality fastball command, ''which is imperative for a starting pitcher,'' Black said.

Even though Bettis is not particularly tall (6-foot-1), Black said, ''His arm angle is such that when he releases the ball it's still coming on a pretty good downhill plane. He throws some low bullets at the knees with the fastball.''

Bettis, who turns 28 on April 26, likely will ease into spring training, which has been his pattern in recent years, Black said.

''He's had a lot of success just starting a little bit later. You might not see him the first week, but you're going to see him soon thereafter,'' Black said.

NOTES: Saturday's pitchers in the spring opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks will include Tyler Anderson, Antonio Senzatella and Jordan Lyles. ... The Rockies will start off spring games in traditional fashion with starting pitchers going around two innings with 30 or so pitches, Black said.

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