There is no tactful transition from the Chad Bettis cancer news to how it impacts a game, but with heavy hearts, the show must go on, and the question must be answered: what happens now?
We really have no idea how long Bettis will be out. For now, our only timeframe is "hopefully this year." And this leaves the Colorado Rockies with decisions to make in their starting rotation with the regular season starting in just 23 days.
Going into spring training, the Rockies appeared to have an open competition for the fifth rotation spot, with Jeff Hoffman in the lead and German Marquez and Kyle Freeland right on his tail. Chris Rusin also factored into the conversation, though he is currently out with an injury and his timetable for return is also unknown, though not expected to be long.
It seems almost certain now that, barring injury, Hoffman will make the starting rotation, but what happens with the fifth spot? Certainly, Marquez or Freeland could grab onto it with excellent performances this spring. But should the Rockies be looking outside the organization for veteran help considering how young they already are? Replacing the most experienced pitcher in the rotation with a rookie going into a year they expect to compete could be tricky.
It had been rumored anyway that the Rockies might be searching for starting pitching help this past offseason. The most famous rumor out of that particular mill was the Charlie Blackmon (and presumably a prospect or two) for Marcus Stroman discussion. The Rockies could revisit a scenario like that, though moving Blackmon off this team at this time presents a whole new string of problems, especially with concerns about David Dahl's health.
Carlos Gonzalez remains a potential trade option, but on a one-year deal, his value is relatively limited and something you really don't want to do as a stopgap, or when forced to by circumstance. And there is always the option of moving prospects for veterans, though Jeff Bridich has shown himself to be extremely reluctant to play that card, and with good reason. So far, his strategy of amassing an army of prospects has been -- albeit slowly -- paying off.
At this point, the Rockies likely aren't sure what they'll do. There's no especially reliable option to call upon to replace one of the most reliable options on the roster. Trades are always a tough needle to thread, and the Rockies seemed very happy going into 2017 with what they have, so the prospect of moving somebody isn't particularly enticing right now. Furthermore, you don't want to block Bettis -- or any of the young(er) guys for that matter -- by making a big splash and bringing in a new piece.
Colorado could do something on a smaller scale. They could sign a veteran still hoping for a team like Tim Lincecum or Doug Fister, both of whom had disastrous seasons a year ago but could be serviceable in a pinch for long enough to let the young guys get just a little more seasoning and for Bettis' timetable to get clearer.
There are guys like Henderson Alvarez and Matt Harrison who haven't pitched in a while because of injury, but obviously, none of those options are really exciting and Dick Monfort has already spent a ton of cash since the last real baseball games were played.
There are no easy answers here. If Bettis does turn out to miss a significant portion, or even all, of the 2017 season, the Rockies may be forced to make some kind of transaction beyond just a call up of a promising prospect. On the other hand, it wouldn't be absurd for one ... or two ... or even three of the Rockies young guys to emerge and have a successful season. If we are just bumping everyone up a step, Hoffman is your fourth starter, Marquez (at 22-years-old) your fifth. Freeland is waiting in the wings and everyone is hoping Antonio Senzatela and Yency Almonte have no hiccups in their development.
The fact that the Rockies ostensibly have three pitching coaches in Bud Black, Steve Foster, and Darren Holmes makes them potentially uniquely suited to pull off such a feat.
That's not the worst position in the world to be in. But when you consider how much the Rockies made it clear this offseason that they intend to compete now, and then look at a rotation made up of 4/5th rookies or sophomores -- and the other guy has two Tommy John surgeries -- it's not the most comfortable place in the world to be in either.
Don't be surprised to see the Rockies make a move in the coming weeks, though how big or small it will be couldn't be more up in the air.