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Woody Paige: Baseball, and the Colorado Rockies, are better with resilient Chad Bettis back

August 15, 2017 Updated: August 16, 2017 at 7:30 am
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Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chad Bettis throws to the plate for the during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Never give up, always get up.

Chad Bettis is an inspiration to the Rockies - and to all.

Wondrously, Chad had a rousing, triumphant return to the Rox and Major League Baseball on Monday night, pitching seven innings and allowing only six hits and no runs.

It was his best - and only - appearance for the Rockies since Sept. 30 of last year.

"Welcome back @cbettis,'' the Braves' organization tweeted earlier in the day, before being shut down and out by Bettis and the Rockies. This was a defeat Atlanta would accept graciously.

Bettis has recovered from cancer - again.

And just maybe his reappearance in a Rockies uniform will be the impetus, the incentive, the impulsion the club needs to finish the season as strong as Bettis has been since being diagnosed with the dastardly disease in December, and learning in March that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes.

On Monday night, in one start, Bettis became the National League's comeback player of the year.

But he's been coming back for six seasons. Several times he could have given up, but he keeps getting up.

In 2014, after being demoted a second time to the Sky Sox, Bettis reached another ebb and thought his baseball career could be over because of ineffectiveness as a starter and a reliever.

Yet, on that Aug. 16 in Colorado Springs, Chad threw eight remarkable innings, and his confidence flowed once more.

Since then, he has started 53 games for the Rockies and compiled a 22-14 record. The team's record in his starts, including Monday's, is 33-19. No longer is he a closer, a setup man, a long reliever, a bottom-of-the-rotation guy or a short-timer.

And, most important, Chad is healthy.

He should have eight more starts in the regular season. The man who was supposed to be the ace when spring training started - could be the wild-card starter the Rockies have been searching for when the Rockies play the Diamondbacks in the playoffs.

It's only one game for Chad and one victory for the Rox, but ...

After the most torrid two-month beginning in the franchise's quarter-century history, the Rockies have become an ordinary below-.500 club. The young starters are hurt, tired or stressed. The Rox remain battling for the second spot in the National League West and the first wild-card position, but the Snakes are not going away and the Cardinals are coming fast.

The Rockies definitely can use a fresh arm and a veteran who has won before.

Bettis has served in the Rockies' system longer than any other pitcher on the roster and has won more games for the Rox in a season (14) than the others.

He was a fire-balling right-handed closer picked in the second round of the 2010 draft out of Texas Tech. The Rockies immediately transitioned Chad to starter. In his first season with three A-ball teams, Bettis won 12 of 14 decisions. The next year he was selected the California League Pitcher of the Year with a 12-5 record and 184 strikeouts.

Bettis was among the Rox's top five prospects in 2012 spring training - until he felt a twinge his throwing shoulder during a bullpen session. Surgery wasn't necessary, but the cautious Rockies didn't let him pitch the entire season.

The Rockies brought up Chad in 2013, but the results were a mixed bag. In 2014 Bettis was deemed a short reliever, but he struggled in 21 games with a 9.12 earned-run average and was sent south on Interstate 25 twice to the Sky Sox. Bettis felt lost. But, utilized primarily as a starter in the Springs, he found himself.

Chad would become an established Rox starter in 2015-2016. One afternoon late last season in LoDo, the 27-year-old bearded Bettis was alone at one end of the clubhouse, and I went over to talk about his resilience and toughness. He was so upbeat about the future.

A few months later, however, tragedy struck. And a few months later, again.

As someone who has lost his mom and his sister to cancer respects what Chad endured and how he has persevered, I stood and cheered for him along with everyone else locally and nationally two nights ago.

Baseball is better because the buoyant battler Bettis is back.

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