Tulowitzki looks just fine in rehab game
Atkins, Hawpe progressing; Smith returns from flu strain
MESA, Ariz. -- The happiest development of the Rockies' Tuesday occurred in Tucson, where shortstop Troy Tulowitzki went 2-for-5 with a home run, a double and two RBIs against a group of D-backs Minor Leaguers from various levels.
Tulowitzki was scratched from a start Saturday against the Rangers because his back tightened after the long bus trip from Tucson to Surprise. Tulowitzki didn't play for three days and said it was for precautionary reasons, and he would have played during the regular season.
Manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday that third baseman Garrett Atkins (right groin strain) will have at-bats in a Minor League game Wednesday and could play Thursday against the Dodgers at Hi Corbett Field. Hurdle also said right fielder Brad Hawpe (strained left hamstring) had a strong batting practice session Tuesday and is not far from returning.
In Tuesday's 9-8 loss to the Cubs, left-hander Greg Smith gave up four runs, three earned, in three innings in his first Cactus League appearance since March 3, when a tough strain of the flu interrupted his spring. His only action since then was a Minor League game last Wednesday.
The first four batters singled, and the Cubs scored twice in the first. Milton Bradley hit a solo shot off Smith in the third. Smith felt good about his pitch location overall, but said he tired toward the end and wasn't as crisp as usual.
"The first inning, I felt like I made some pitches, but there was a broken-bat hit, a bloop over second, things like that," Smith said. "As the game went on, it started coming back. I felt good, then I started getting a little tired, and I'd leave a breaking ball or I'd leave a changeup or fall behind in the count. I wasn't as crisp as I wanted to be."
Smith, who is competing for the fifth rotation spot, said the pitch to Bradley was an "OK pitch, it wasn't bad."
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Hurdle noted that Smith has time. The Rockies have three days off in the first two weeks of the season and can hold off on determining a fifth starter. Hurdle said the club has met about whether to go with an extra position player or reliever, but he declined to reveal what was said and added that he wants to be "open-minded to some degree."
The odd moment came in the fourth inning, when closer candidate Manuel Corpas walked the first three batters he faced, although leadoff man Alfonso Soriano was erased when catcher Chris Iannetta threw him out trying to steal second. Hurdle went to the mound to talk to Corpas.
Usually, that duty goes to pitching coach Bob Apodaca. But there have been a handful of times over the years when Hurdle has gone out for stern words with a pitcher who is not throwing strikes.
"I just gave him some instruction," Hurdle said. "That's all I care to say."
Corpas escaped with no runs after Bradley flied to the warning track and Aramis Ramirez fanned on a full count. Asked if he was pleased with how Corpas followed the instruction, Hurdle answered, "To some degree."
Corpas is competing with right-hander Huston Street, who started slowly but is pitching well, for the closer job.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.