Modesto's Chad Bettis Finds Success In New Role
In the annual all-star showdown between the California and Carolina leagues, Modesto righthander Chad Bettis entered the game in the ninth inning and faced just two batters. Even in that brief appearance, however, he managed to record a strikeout, something he has made a habit out of this season.
Bettis, who was 6-5, 3.74 overall for the Nuts, had racked up 120 strikeouts against 32 walks in 113 innings. Though he pitched in relief in the all-star game, he has been a starter in the Rockies system.
"My preferred role is whatever gets me to the big leagues quicker," he said, laughing. "Whatever is going to get me there the fastest is what I'll prefer right now, but eventually I'd like to start there."
Bettis is accustomed to working in both roles. He was given ample opportunity to work as a starter and in relief in college at Texas Tech, where he started figuring out how different the jobs are.
"I did both my last few years there, and it was definitely nice to see how each role is different and what it takes to be successful at both roles," Bettis said.
The learning experience for the young righthander wasn't limited to his time at Texas Tech as his play was rewarded with the chance to play for USA Baseball's 2009 college national team. That team boasted a slew of strong arms, including UCLA aces Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole and Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray, who were 2011 first-rounders, and 2010 first-rounder Drew Pomeranz. He pitched out of the bullpen for Team USA.
"It was unreal," Bettis said, "and the pitching we had on that team that year was unbelievable. I didn't know how good it was going to be. A lot of people talked about teams before us, but I think we definitely had one of the best team chemistries that I've heard of.
"Just to be around that elite group of guys was a great learning experience because you talk to everybody about the game and what they've learned and you start learning from them."
For Bettis though, playing with Team USA wasn't just about the guys he had the chance to play with and learn from. He also learned more about how to get prepared mentally and physically while playing a demanding schedule.
"I almost think we traveled more than we really played," he said. "That's not the case, but it was really the closest you can get to playing professional ball at an amateur level. You know you're traveling everywhere, you're riding on 14-hour plane trips to go Japan and then back to Canada and you have a game the next day.
"The preparation it took to get to that point, where you're like, 'I've got to suit up and we have a game today and I've got to get ready for that game,' it was a lot of fun."
Bettis used that as a springboard to become a second-round pick (76th overall) in 2010, and he signed with the Rockies for a $477,000 bonus. He signed early enough to pitch 67 innings last summer between short-season Tri-City and low Class A Asheville, going a combined 6-1, 1.07 and cementing the organization's decision to develop him as a starter rather than a reliever.
The strong work last year also allowed Bettis to jump straight to Modesto this season. Modesto manager Jerry Weinstein attributes Bettis' success to his aggressive attitude on the mound in conjunction with his impressive mound IQ.
"It's a combination of a lot of things, but it's being precise and purposeful in everything that you do, and he doesn't waste any time and he doesn't waste any effort." Weinstein said. "He's smart. He's in charge of himself, which is really important because the best lessons are self-taught in this game. The more you figure it out on your own, the better."
Coming Right After You
It's not like Bettis doesn't have plenty of stuff. He utilizes a mid- to upper-90s fastball that sits at 94 mph and touches 99. Weinstein describes his curveball as a plus pitch, and his power slider makes a nice addition to that.
Still, Modesto catcher Beau Seabury said he thinks that it's Bettis' mentality on the mound that makes him tough to hit.
"He's out on there on the mound, he's a competitor, he comes right after guys. He's not going to back down," Seabury said. "Whether it's the guy hitting .340 with a bunch of home runs, he's going to go right after him and attack him with the fastball and not back down from anybody."
In spite of his performance this season, Bettis said he still wasn't sure he would be selected for the Cal-Carolina all-star game, which was played at his home park in Modesto. His teammates however, were all but certain.
"I didn't think I was really going to be voted on to the all-star team," Bettis said. "Everyone in the locker room kept giving me crap, they're like 'you got it.'
"I was just like, 'Gah, I hope so' but I wasn't expecting it. It was very beneficial to me that I got voted on to there. I felt like I got lucky."
Bettis' humility about getting selected to the all-star team belies his assured approach on the mound, and he did say that his confidence has been growing as the season has progressed. After the all-star break, Bettis said he has become more comfortable with his changeup, and as a result he is confident in every pitch in his repertoire. It was obvious in the numbers: In his first three starts after the break, he allowed only three earned runs and struck out 26 batters, including an 11-strikeout performance at Stockton, when he struck out eight in a row.
With Bettis' combination of stuff and moxie, such performances should no longer be a surprise, not matter what role they come in.