This article also appears in the Venezuelan newspaper Meridiano. - RRC
When you talk to Jhoulys Chacin, his voice is calm and shows no signs of fueling the recent controversy over his weight, and his offseason training in Venezuela.
The pitcher has been recently in the news because of recent statements made by Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd and reported by The Denver Post. O'Dowd was upset and claimed Chacin arrived to the United States overweight.
"I came to Arizona this past Monday. I have not stopped training during the winter, both in my country and here. I have always done the best job I could all throughout these past few months," Chacin said. "I don't know where these comments came from, I believe they're the result of what other people have told him, instead of his own personal evaluation".
Chacin comes to Arizona with all spotlights set on him: 53 Major League starts over three seasons made him one of the top hurlers for Colorado. In 2011, Chacin had a 11-14 record with a 3.62 ERA, after experiencing a rollercoaster of a season: his pitching was top notch at the season's start, then flopped after becoming the rotation's ace due to the trade which sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians.
O'Dowd claimed Chacin reported to Arizona weighing 218 pounds. The pitcher has different data.
"I reported to Spring Training last year at 228 pounds. I am currently at 226. That's two less pounds than last year," Chacin said.
"Actually, I finished last season at 230 pounds. So I am four pounds lighter than in September. I am looking forward to meeting O'Dowd personally and I am confident that he will have a different conclusion after a first-hand evaluation. He will realize he made conclusions based on incorrect claims made by other people," the pitcher said.
One of the issues is on the table due to O'Dowd's recent claims is the fact Chacin traveled to his native Venezuela throughout the winter instead of staying in the United States. The player does not consider it a decisive factor.
"There's a myth in the baseball world which states Latin players do not work at their hardest during the winter. We return to our home countries and people think all we do is party. That couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, we do take some time off and relax like everyone does. But we are aware of our duties; we are professionals and stay active. We keep ourselves in training and respect the recommendations our organizations make so we can improve ourselves. I have not done anything different to what I did last year," Chacin said.
After finishing the 2010 season, Chacin decided to adopt the same conditioning and nutrition plans set for his former teammate Jimenez. The Rockies decided to focus on his agility and athletics, instead of bulking an already large build.
This year, the Maracaibo native also has focused on one of the things he needs to address: a fastball that has not been as consistent as needed.
"One of the things I have worked on strongly is a better fastball. I have over a month working specifically on that, I believe this is important so I can have more innings pitched under my belt," Chacin said.
"I believe we will put this issue to rest after I get to meet personally with management. Spring Training is just around the corner. I don't believe this will be a major issue. I know I have done my best work possible; and I'm aware of my responsibilities and the tasks I have ahead of me".