DENVER -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss sees left-hander Jorge De La Rosa and right-handers Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood as the foundations of his 2014 starting rotation.
That means right-hander Juan Nicasio, who has been inconsistent, and veteran Roy Oswalt, who is getting a look at the end of this season and will likely be invited back next, will be among competitors for the other two spots.
"As I see it right now, those three guys have really solidified a spot," Weiss said. "Juan's been good at times, but we need to see a little more consistency. But the other three guys, they're nice arms to have."
So the Rockies, who need a strong finish to avoid finishing last in the National League West in consecutive years for the first time in club history, enter 2014 in better shape than this year. De La Rosa, Chacin and Nicasio were coming off injuries in 2013.
But, it sets up dramatic competition at the back of the rotation.
Nicasio has won jobs in camp the last three years. Oswalt figures to be a low-risk competitor. Left-hander Drew Pomeranz, possibly righty Chad Bettis if he isn't made a reliever, and righty Collin McHugh also could be in the mix. Also figuring to be in the mix is 2012 supplemental first-round Draft pick Eddie Butler, a right-hander who went a combined 9-5 with a 1.80 ERA at Class A Asheville and Modesto and Double-A Tulsa. It is expected that he will be invited to Major League camp.
The X-factor is competition acquired in trades or on the free-agent market. The Rockies aimed low last year, bringing in lefty Jeff Francis and picking up righty Jon Garland after he was released by the Mariners in Spring Training. Weiss refused to speculate on free agency efforts, since those are upper-management decisions.
"You take a look at a pool of players who are available," Weiss said. "That's stuff for the offseason, and it changes quickly."
Pomeranz encouraged by relief outing
DENVER -- Rockies lefty Drew Pomeranz had a positive one-inning relief appearance Monday against the Cardinals. It's not clear when he'll have his next chance, but he appreciated a positive outing after a year that has been difficult at the Major League level.
"It was good to throw strikes and make pitches," said Pomeranz, who gave up a hit but forced a double-play grounder in the 6-2 victory. "I just had an inning, 13 pitches or so, but it was good to go right after guys."
Pomeranz is 0-4 with a 7.64 ERA in five games, with all the losses coming in starts -- the last on July 22 -- before he suffered a left biceps tendon strain.
Pomeranz went a combined 8-2 with a 4.65 ERA in 16 Minor League games. But before his first call-up from Triple-A Colorado Springs in June, Pomeranz, after consulting with coaches, raised his arm slot and ended up creating inconsistency.
"I tried to get my arm up a little bit and I eventually got it up too much, which caused me to get hurt, and the consistency was kind of all over the place," said Pomeranz, who is still looking for the production the Rockies sought in the 2011 trade that sent former ace Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland. "We just kind of did it. It's a learning experience.
"I think I know what I need to do to be successful up here. I need to do what I know. It's about keeping the same mechanics, instead of trying to change stuff up so much. You never get anywhere when you do that."
Pomeranz, 24, received high marks for arriving in Spring Training in impressive condition, and hopes to take the next step in 2014.
"I learned a lot of good lessons, the good and the bad, and have some perspective," he said. "I think I said the same thing last year, but I'm learning about using what I learned to put it all together and have a good year."
Bettis prefers starting, but enjoys relieving
DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis has said in interviews and to the Rockies' coaching staff he prefers starting, but he also has made it clear he enjoys pitching out of the bullpen.
A second-round Draft pick in 2010, Bettis went 0-3 with a 5.02 ERA in eight starts before being tried in the bullpen, where he entered Thursday afternoon's game with the Cardinals 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three appearances.
"In my career, long term, I would like to start, and I've had that discussion with Walt [Weiss, the manager], Jimmy [Wright, the pitching coach] and Bo [McLaughlin, the assistant pitching coach], but I enjoy both, so I guess that's a problem," Bettis said. "The thing is, I want to be in the position to help the team in whichever way."
Bettis, 24, pitched in relief for 17 of his 24 games at Texas Tech in his junior year of 2010, and finished with 102 strikeouts and 33 walks.
The Rockies are generally loathe to turn their backs on a power pitcher who could start. However, Bettis is more consistently at the 96-97 mph range on his fastball as a reliever, which leads to questions of whether his arm works better in that role. Bettis, however, said part of the reason he isn't that high on the radar gun as a starter is strategy.
"As a starter, I feel I have the ability to dial it up whenever I need to, but really it's about being more efficient -- getting movement, getting groundballs, quick innings," Bettis said. "Closing, I feel it's a little different. But it still comes back to trying to get strike one, getting ahead of the hitter."
Weiss plans to stick to pitch count next year
DENVER -- The Rockies are known for limiting their starting pitchers to around 100 pitches. Although it's out of the question for them to let one throw 121, like the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright did in 7 2/3 innings of a 4-3 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday night, manager Walt Weiss said it's not out of the ordinary for teams to observe a limit of around 100, even though it's not as discussed a subject as it is in Colorado.
One reason to keep a close eye on pitch counts early this season was the fact Jorge De La Rosa had missed most of the previous two years with an elbow injury, and Jhoulys Chacin missed extensive time last season due to a nerve issue in the right side of his chest. But Chacin has reached triple figures eight times, with a high of 108, and De La Rosa has gone at least 100 six times with a high of 110.
Weiss expects to use similar strategy next season.
"I don't think it's going to change a whole lot, especially early on," Weiss said. "We try to look at the big picture, not just the outing that day. As the season has gone on, I've had a bit of a longer leash at times with certain guys, but I don't think 100 pitches is real restricting. I think the average start in the National League this year is 94-95 pitches. I don't think it's that big of an issue."
• National League batting leader Michael Cuddyer, hitting .331, rolled over on his left wrist and suffered a bruised right forearm making a diving catch in Wednesday night's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals and didn't start Thursday. He hopes to return to the lineup Friday.
• Rockies righty Chad Bettis is often referred to as "The Bus" -- the same nickname former Rams and Steelers running back Jerome Bettis carried through a career that will likely land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Chad Bettis wears 35, one digit lower than the number the football player wore. He smiled and said he is considering wearing No. 36.
A sweet story: Bettis said that through elementary school and middle school, many of his classmates, not caring at all about racial differences, earnestly asked if he was a relative of the NFL player.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.