Chacin starts to fulfill potential for Rockies
Righty shining on big stage after starting year at Triple-A
LOS ANGELES -- Rockies rookie right-hander Jhoulys Chacin's overnight success story began with one tough day during Spring Training.
Chacin, who had a brief callup that included several strong relief appearances and one bad start last season, arrived with a goal of making the team even though several more experienced pitchers were ahead of him. But the Rockies didn't use him much in games and dispatched him to Minor League camp March 23.
It was disappointing for Chacin, 22, and manager Jim Tracy knew it would be. But Tracy determined that Chacin wasn't ready and wanted to be clear about why.
Asked if he thought Chacin would get the message so quickly, Tracy said, "I can't answer and say yes to that, but I can tell you that he and I had a nice sit-down together.
"I knew there was going to be disappointment, which there was. There was also as a result of that, knowing where I was at when I observed this kid when I came here as a coach at the beginning of last year, I felt explanation on my part was necessary.
"That was basically to explain to the kid, 'You want to come back here and pitch? Well, here's what you have to do. Get your fastball over the plate. Command your fastball to both sides of the plate. This is what you have to do, it's a two-way street. We can talk about how good you are, but sooner or later you're going to have to go between the lines and show someone.'"
Interestingly, Tracy was at the forefront of those discussing Chacin's potential. After Chacin went 18-3 at two Class A levels, he was officially placed on the fast track. The early relief appearances, the way he changed speeds and used breaking pitches to control experienced bats, seemed to quicken the pace.
But when he started Aug. 11 against the Pirates -- at the insistence of Tracy, who could have given the ball to the more grizzled Josh Fogg -- and issued six walks in 2 2/3 innings, the hype was halted. The emphasis on the fastball was increased.
"I really wanted to make the team," Chacin said. "But when he talked to me, I knew I had to keep working hard. I just did what they told me to do to get my confidence back in my fastball command. That's what I did in Triple-A. I didn't try to do too much.
"I didn't want to be down there for long, but it was OK. I thought, 'Just go to Triple-A and make it a hard decision.' I wanted to be ready."
Chacin dominated at Colorado Springs (3-0, 1.69 ERA in four starts), but what would he do in the Majors? Three appearances -- a one-inning relief shot and victories as a starter over the Giants and the Dodgers -- and 15 1/3 scoreless innings (the longest active streak in the Majors) later, the Rockies have an emphatic answer.
"What I love is I see that he's faced an adversity, and he's responded," said reliever Randy Flores, who forced a key double-play grounder in the eighth Saturday night to keep Chacin's scoreless run going and help preserve an 8-0 victory.
"I wouldn't even call it a road bump, but let's face it: You don't draw up your first big league start to go the way it did for him, then he didn't make the team out of spring. But he's come up and really been impressive."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.