07/26/2003 9:14 PM ET
Notes: Colorado's cold catchers
Johnson, Estalella look for consistency at the plate
DENVER -- Colorado Rockies catcher Charles Johnson's batting average has been falling since late June. But Johnson insists that he is still standing.
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Johnson sat out of the starting lineup Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers, marking the sixth time in 11 games that Johnson was out and Bobby Estalella was in.
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said he doesn't consider one ahead of the other, even though Johnson has a more impressive history. Neither is hitting well. Johnson has fallen from a season-high .254 on May 2 to .223 going into Saturday. Estalella has not found any batting consistency in his increased recent playing time, and entered Saturday batting .203.
"You'd really like to see one of them get hot with the bat," Hurdle said. "Bobby has been getting better at-bats. Charles has kind of struggled here the last month. But as far as handling the staff, both of them have shown up every day and done their homework."
Johnson came to Colorado facing scrutiny because of, as Hurdle put it, "the back of Charles' gum card." Johnson has four Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and has made two All-Star teams.
Johnson, who turned 32 last Sunday, went into the season facing questions about how he would handle the long games at high altitude in Colorado. The Rockies acquired him in a trade with the Florida Marlins during the winter.
In past seasons, Rockies regular catchers have seen a serious downturn in their numbers late in the season, and that's been blamed on wear and tear. Johnson insists the climate is not wearing on him.
"Catching is always difficult, regardless of where you catch," Johnson said. "You have to definitely factor in some of the elements as far as catching in a place like Denver.
"But I caught in Florida for a lot of years. It's hot all year and your body never gets a rest from sweating. Plus you're playing on the East Coast, and you're playing in New York, Atlanta and it's smoking, with humidity. It drains you. There's a little bit of a breather on the West Coast because cities like San Diego, L.A., San Francisco, the humidity isn't like it is on the East Coast."
Johnson said he won't be able to assess until after the season the affect that altitude is having on him.
All along, Johnson insists that catchers' offensive numbers fluctuate because their defensive responsibilities are so mentally draining. Johnson said he conserves energy offensively by trying to keep a compact swing and exercising discipline, but it doesn't always work.
"It's a mental grind. ... You have to keep telling yourself you're not tired," Johnson said. "That's why it's so important when it's my time to hit not to try to do too much. Last night is a great example. I was trying to do too much and swinging at balls."
Against history: Right-hander Chin-hui Tsao, who pitched 6 1/3 innings of the Rockies' 7-3 victory over Milwaukee on Friday night, became the sixth pitcher to in Rockies history to win his Major League debut. Others were:
Jason Jennings, Aug. 23, 2001 at the New York Mets
Mark Brownson, July 21, 1998 at Houston
Bryan Rekar, July 19, 1995 at Philadelphia
Mark Thompson, July 26, 1994 at San Diego
Marcus Moore, July 9, 1993 at St. Louis (in relief)
Legally blond: Rockies bullpen closer Justin Speier dyed his hair blond before Friday night's game, and explained Saturday that he wanted to "see if we can put some wins together."
Speier pitched the ninth inning of Friday's victory.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.