Notes: Holliday better but not in lineup
Rockies slugger says he expects to play Tuesday in LA
SAN DIEGO -- The best news of Sunday morning was Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday had a donut. This has nothing to do with his dietary choice. Such a pastry never helped a strained oblique; too many of those and you can't find the side muscle.
This donut was made of iron, and he slipped it around a baseball bat. Holliday didn't feel good enough to return to the lineup. Ryan Spilborghs replaced him Sunday afternoon, for the second straight game. But Holliday was up to taking swings. Earlier, he had gone through a set of exercises.
Holliday, hitting .337 with 36 home runs and a league-best 131 RBIs, hopes to return to the starting lineup Tuesday in the opener of a three-game road set against the Dodgers.
After talking to head trainer Keith Dugger, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said Holliday was available off the bench Sunday. Monday's off-day also is a fortunate schedule break.
In addition to feeling good enough to try, Holliday was having a good day because the Rockies won, 6-2, beating the National League Wild Card-leading Padres, Saturday night in his absence. By gametime Sunday, the Rockies were 2 1/2 games behind the Padres and 1 1/2 games behind the Phillies, who lost Sunday to the Nationals.
"Maybe they don't need me," Holliday said with a smile. "The good thing about this team is everybody is contributing, and everybody is doing the job.
"I'm going to see what I can do. I did some exercise this morning, and I'll talk to the [Dugger] and see what to do next."
Back on a roll: The last two years, Spilborghs yo-yo'd between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs, and he began this year in the Minors. But when called up this year, he sizzled with the bat. His success and his infectious personality made him a curiosity.
Lately, Spilborghs is showing he is more than a cute story. He's been a winning ballplayer.
From Aug. 27 to Sept. 13, Spilborghs went 3-for-30 and his average dropped from .312 to .288. But rather than fading away, Spilborghs has surged. He hit safely in four of the five games leading into Sunday, going 7-for-19 (.368). He is not a home run threat like Holliday, but Spilborghs is giving the Rockies clean at-bats, which is all a dangerous top-to-bottom lineup needs.
"I can't think of too many bat at-bats, even though I haven't always gotten a hit," Spilborghs said. "Last night, we had a man at third and an opportunity to score and didn't get him in [he took a called strike three, his face expressed displeasure with the call]. I felt I got a pitch to hit and just missed it.
"I've been feeling good. More often than not, I come back to the dugout and I'm not frustrated because it was a good, quality at-bat."
The key, Spilborghs said, is the confidence the Rockies have demonstrated in him.
"When you get support from the coaching staff and the manager keeps running you out there every day, it's hard not to be confident," Spilborghs said. "The guy that's writing down the lineup has my back."
Managing the masses: Hurdle used 10 pitchers in a game earlier this month and has shown no qualms about taking advantage of an expanded roster -- he has 36 in uniform -- to make bullpen and bench moves.
Hurdle has said in he past he would prefer not expanding the rosters because it changes the game from the way it is played all season, and the numbers can be overwhelming. But Hurdle, who, after taking the job in 2002, has built a reputation for shrewd handling of his bench and has flourished.
"It has really worked to our benefit this year, and I haven't been a big fan," Hurdle said. "But I do think there are a couple of things that come into play. It helps the middle-market teams more so than the major-market teams -- they have their free agents they've gone and gotten and the pieces they've put into play.
"If that's not an option for you, you can go to the strength that you have, which is our Minor League organization. We went for volume. In hockey, we have a fourth line that we can throw out there, and they've all responded."
The use of young players in veteran jobs shows up in pinch-hitting.
Spilborghs, who has yet to play a full Major League season, has 11 pinch-hit RBIs, tied for fifth in baseball going into Sunday. Jeff Baker, in his first full season, has been used primarily off the bench. The three main left-handed bats -- Ian Stewart, Joe Koshansky and Seth Smith (who hit off the bench in the first two games with the Padres) -- are late-season callups.
Up next: After taking Monday off, the Rockies will send rookie right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 4.14 ERA) against Dodgers right-hander Brad Penny (16-4, 2.93) on Tuesday at 8:10 p.m. MT.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.