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Rockies’ Bettis working his way back

Chad Bettis got a haircut this past weekend in Salt Lake City, and he was still grinning about it on Wednesday in Albuquerque when talking to reporters.

No, it wasn’t a particularly good or bad haircut.

But for the 28-year-old Colorado Rockies pitcher, a recent first-time father working his way back to the majors through a rehab assignment with the Albuquerque Isotopes while recovering from testicular cancer surgery, the buzz cut was a big step.

“It was the first (time he went to a barber for a cut) since the one I gave myself because I was going bald,” said Bettis, referring to when chemotherapy in March began its inevitable toll of making his hair fall out.

There are hundreds of milestones ahead for him. But for now, it was another sign normalcy — whatever that might be — is close to returning for Bettis, who is expected to start for the ‘Topes on Friday.

In November, when doctors advised pregnant wife Kristina to do self-breast exam, he figured he should self-check himself. He found a lump that turned out to be testicular cancer.

“I don’t think my daughter will ever understand the impact of the importance she’s had on our lives,” Bettis said of Everleigh, born in March.

The road back hasn’t been easy, but his dark days — what he called moments of “getting mentally dominated” by the disease and chemotherapy —  are now behind him.

He, as well as Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon who also recently has been on the comeback trail after a testicular cancer diagnosis, hope to now help others learn from their experience.

“We want to bring some serious awareness to this young man’s disease,” Bettis said.

The steps that helped Bettis get through the past eight months in good spirits and good health include family and faith. “You don’t know how you’re going to respond to that if you don’t surround yourself with good people,” he said.

Next up for Bettis is a start Friday he hopes will be better than Sunday in Salt Lake when he allowed six hits and three earned runs in 2⅔ innings. But the good sign was nothing about that start led him to believe he isn’t physically ready to continue his return to the Rockies this season.

And the Rockies are cautiously optimistic as well.

“That day when he steps on the major league mound for us again this year, it can’t happen soon enough,” Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told reporters Wednesday at Isotopes Park. “…  But we’re not going to skip steps between now and then. We just look forward to it when it happens.”