Tyler Chatwood is returning - who should get sent down?

Doug Pensinger

When Tyler Chatwood returns to the active roster, should the Rockies send down a starter (Jordan Lyles) or a reliever (Wilton Lopez or Chad Bettis)?

While last night's game was a debacle, I'd almost rather the Rockies lost more of their games in that fashion, though Franklin Morales, Chad Bettis, and Wilton Lopez probably didn't. As RIRF wrote last night:

Three Rockies pitchers had a chance to show they didn't deserve a demotion after this game. All of them failed

It's a little misleading to end the quote there, as RIRF goes on to explain each pitcher's failure, but the bottom line is that each man failed in the task he was given. That's not good for any of them, because each of the three is facing a demotion of some kind in the very near future.

That's because Tyler Chatwood is coming back as soon as this Sunday. In a rehab start at AAA Colorado Springs last night, Chatwood appeared to be in mid-season form, going 6 1/3 innings on 86 pitches, allowing only one run on five hits while striking out eight. It was an encouraging performance for Chatwood, who has a "show-me" season ahead of him at the big league level.

As such, Chatwood's going to need a roster spot and soon. Here are the basic options as I see them for when that happens:

Jordan Lyles is sent down

This might be an unpopular option for Rockies fans, given that Lyles was a one-man wrecking crew on Monday night with his arm, bat, and glove. In two starts this year, Lyles is 2-0 (I know, I know) with a 3.86 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 11 2/3 innings while producing a 56% groundball rate. All of these are very good things, though of course I need to provide the obligatory SMALL SAMPLE SIZE warning to this and pretty much every stat I mention in this article.

Still, there's a reason that Franklin Morales won the initial 5th starter competition this spring - beyond spring training stats, from which it's tough to parse any meaning. From a roster management standpoint, Lyles is more easily moved around. After all, Lyles still has a minor league option and therefore can be sent to AAA this year without being exposed to waivers. Meanwhile, Morales is waiver-less and basically would have to stay on the 25 man roster if the Rockies wanted to retain his services.

At this point in April, it makes sense for Colorado to keep as much pitching depth as they can, because Winter is Coming. I mean, the season is really long and stuff happens. That's why, if the Rockies do decide to send down a starter when Chatwood comes up, I think it will be Lyles.

Bullpen pitcher is sent down, Morales to pen

I suspect that this is the solution that would make many Rockies fans happy. While five of the eight bullpen pitchers on the active roster still have minor league options remaining, there are only really two main candidates for such a demotion due to Rule 5 requirements (Tommy Kahnle) or extreme effectiveness in the recent past (Adam Ottavino, Rex Brothers). That leaves Wilton Lopez and Chad Bettis, both of whom struggled last night.

Lopez is one of the least popular Rockies that I can remember given a really bad first impression last year stemming from shaky performances in high leverage situations that masked the fact that he was actually quite effective for most of the season. That's a shame, since Lopez has had a history of being an extremely effective reliever - which is why the Rockies acquired him in exchange for Alex White prior to the 2013 season. Still, you can't ignore how bad he looked last night, allowing six runs on eight hits (four of which went for extra bases). It's tough to reward performances like that with a major league roster spot.

Bettis really only threw one bad pitch, an inside fastball to Jose Abreu on pitch 13 of a plate appearance that left the yard, but he doesn't have the track record as an effective MLB reliever that Lopez does. In addition, Bettis really hasn't shown the electric stuff that set him apart during spring training as a reliever - it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him optioned to get some more relief appearances under his belt.

Ultimately, if the Rockies do decide to demote a bullpen pitcher, they'll need to make a choice between the veteran who has pitched well at the major league level before but who looked terrible last night or the rookie fireballer who could probably use more seasoning and hasn't exactly distinguished himself either this year. If I'm Colorado, I'm sending down Bettis and moving Morales to the pen.

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