DENVER -- Reliever Rex Brothers has not only developed his changeup into a reliable pitch that complements his mid-90s fastball and hard slider, but one that has become a vital way for Brothers to monitor his mechanics.
In particular, his changeup helps Brothers avoid rushing his delivery.
"Whenever I need to [remember to] stay back over the rubber, keep my head still and get that good extension out front," Brothers said, "the changeup's going to tell me whether all those things are working together and to get that end result on any of my pitches.
"It takes that good extension and good feel out front to throw a good changeup, and with that comes the slot for the fastball and the slider."
Brothers entered Sunday 1-0 with a string of 12 straight scoreless outings covering 11 innings. Overall, he is 1-0 with a 0.63 ERA in 16 games, having allowed one run -- April 6 in his fourth appearance -- with seven walks, 17 strikeouts and 11 hits allowed in 14 1/3 innings.
His torrid start has been a carryover from 2012, when Brothers went 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his final 21 appearances with 12 walks and 24 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings. The 25-year-old Brothers gives a lot of credit to fellow reliever Matt Belisle, 32, for his development.
"He's the one that's always steered me, and I talk to him about it day in and day out about just what it takes and just kind of molding my own kind of repertoire," Brothers said. "I can't say enough about what he's meant to me."
Belisle said: "I try to remind him to stay humble and stay extremely hungry. And I think he's doing that well. I think Rex wants to learn, and that's a big difference. He obviously has a very, very gifted arm, gifted stuff. But it's not complete without maturing, continually trying to improve the mental side of the game, because there's been a lot of [great] arms that have come through. You've got to keep adapting. So I'm really proud of the work he's tried to implement every day."
Chatwood sent down to make room for Chacin
DENVER -- Pitcher Jhoulys Chacin was activated Sunday when he was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list, which he landed on with a back strain, and started against the Rays. Tyler Chatwood, who made two starts in Chacin's absence, was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Manager Walt Weiss said Chacin, who last pitched April 19 and left a start that night holding his left side, would not be under any restrictions.
"We'll let him go," Weiss said. "We'll be smart about it, but I'm not going to be overly cautious."
In his first four starts, Chacin went 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA. Chatwood went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his two starts, pitching six innings in each. In the second one, Monday in Los Angeles, Chatwood held the Dodgers scoreless and allowed five hits with no walks and five strikeouts on 96 pitches.
Juan Nicasio could have been demoted to Colorado Springs, but the Rockies opted to keep him in the rotation. High pitch counts have plagued Nicasio, who pitched six innings in his first start but has not gone beyond the fifth in his past five outings. And in four of those five games, the inefficient Nicasio has needed 92 to 97 pitches, including 92 in four innings Wednesday in Los Angeles, where he allowed five hits and three runs in four innings.
Nicasio, who is 3-0 with a 4.91 ERA, began the season as the No. 3 starter in the Rockies' rotation.
"We want to give some benefit of the doubt to the guys that broke camp with us and give them every opportunity to do their thing," Weiss said. "I think with all of them, there's been enough bright spots to warrant that. At the same time, I think Tyler's slowly moving toward being in a position of creating a spot for himself with the way he handled himself. The way he competes, there's a lot to like about Tyler. It wasn't easy."
Helton back in Rockies' lineup
DENVER -- First baseman Todd Helton came off the 15-day disabled list Sunday and was in the Rockies' lineup. First baseman/third baseman Ryan Wheeler was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Helton last played April 19 and had been sidelined with a left forearm strain. He was eligible to be activated Sunday after being placed on the disabled list April 25 retroactive to April 20. Helton entered Sunday's game hitting .268 (11-for-41) with three doubles, one homer and 10 RBIs in 13 games. He injured his forearm while taking a swing in a game April 16.
Helton began the season 2-for-21 with two singles and two RBIs in his first six games but had since gone 9-for-20 before his stretch on the disabled list, which tested the patience of his teammates and Weiss' coaching staff.
"He has been driving us crazy," Weiss said. "At some point about halfway through his DL stint here in the dugout, I tried to get [head trainer Keith Dugger] to hit him with a tranquilizing dart. But it's good to have him back out there. It'll be nice watching him take [at-bats] again, doing his thing."
The Rockies acquired Wheeler in the offseason from the D-backs for left-handed reliever Matt Reynolds. Wheeler began the season at Colorado Springs, and in six games with the Rockies, including one start, went 1-for-9 (.111) with a double.
• Center fielder Dexter Fowler returned to the lineup Sunday. He came out of Friday night's game in the fifth inning with right hip flexor soreness, the result of swerving to avoid a collision with Rays first baseman Sean Hernandez after trying to bunt for a hit.
"It's still a little sore, but I'll be all right," Fowler said.
• Second baseman Josh Rutledge batted eighth for the third time this season, and third baseman Nolan Arenado hit second after being in the sixth or seventh spot for his first six games in the Major Leagues. With No. 6 hitter Helton off the disabled list and catcher Wilin Rosario hitting seventh, Weiss said, "Who the heck's going to hit eighth in that lineup is basically what it's come down to."
• Arenado said Mike Gonzalez, his high school coach, would be here for the three-game series with the Yankees that begins Tuesday. Yankees catcher Austin Romine was two years ahead of Arenado at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif.
Jack Etkin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.