DENVER -- Rockies setup man Taylor Buchholz's return from right elbow surgery hit a snag when he suffered lower back stiffness and had to be pulled from his Minor League injury rehab assignment.
Buchholz had a career year with a 2.17 ERA in 63 appearances in 2008 but suffered an elbow injury during Spring Training 2009. He was 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA in five appearances for Triple-A Colorado Springs, after one scoreless appearance at Class A Modesto.
"He had back-to-back outings, and after the second one was beginning to complain about stiffness in his lower back, so they brought him in and took him off his rehab assignment," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Friday.
The news was a little better for reliever Franklin Morales, who had an up-and-down stint as closer before left shoulder stiffness forced him to the disabled list on May 20. Morales struck out two and gave up one hit on Thursday, with no walks an one hit batter, in two scoreless innings in Colorado Springs' 3-2 loss to Omaha.
"The reports I got were all very good," Tracy said. "His velocity was up where you'd want it to be. Obviously from telling you he walked nobody, his command, with the exception of the hit batsman, was for the most part, very solid."
Rotation keys Rockies' torrid run
DENVER -- The Rockies' rotation was so dependable during its last turn that even the pitchers who struggled felt good about it.
Beginning with Ubaldo Jimenez's win against Houston on May 20, the rotation is 5-1 in the club's last seven games.
"Our team usually feeds off each other in general, and, now that the starting pitching is starting to come around, each one of us is taking the mound every day realizing we've got to do what everyone else is doing, and that's giving us a chance to win ballgames," starting pitcher Aaron Cook said.
Cook (1-3, 5.40), who pitched four scoreless innings in his most recent start against the Royals before allowing four runs in the fifth, emerged without a decision but knew his comrades would pitch well again in the following days.
"We realize that we're all in this together," he said. "It's not all one person. I went out there and had a horrible fifth, but [Rockies manager Jim Tracy] got the bullpen to come in and pick me up, and we won the game, which is the important thing."
Young pitchers such as Jhoulys Chacin (3-2, 3.09) and Jason Hammel (2-3, 6.93) earned wins this week, sandwiched around Jimenez (9-1, 0.88).
"It happened last year, too," Hammel said. "We had the 11-game win streak right around this time. Whatever we can do to keep it close gives us a chance to score some runs and win."
Rockies look for breakthrough vs. Dodgers
DENVER -- Though the Rockies entered Friday riding high on a five-game winning streak, the Dodgers -- who open a three-game set in Colorado -- have been the Rockies' buzzkills in blue.
"This is a good test for us because we struggled against them last year," starting pitcher Aaron Cook said. "We played a couple good games against them in L.A. earlier this season, and now we need to get after it and keep proving to ourselves that we can do it."
The Dodgers handled the Rockies last season. Los Angeles beat Colorado in 14 of the 18 meetings in 2009, including seven of the nine games at Coors Field.
The Dodgers also won the first season series of 2010, taking two of three games earlier this month in Los Angeles. Included in that series was Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez's lone loss of the year, in which he gave up one run over seven innings.
With the help of right fielder Brad Hawpe, who missed the series three weeks ago but is a career .353 hitter with 20 homers and 75 RBIs against LA, the Rockies hope to make it six wins in a row on Friday.
"We know how to play against them just like we know how to play against anybody else, and if we perform up to our capability, we can beat them just like anybody else," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "But sitting here and talking about it and doing it are two different things. We have to go between the lines and do something about it because the season series a year ago was extremely lopsided.
Morales building up strength in shoulder
DENVER -- Franklin Morales didn't realize how weak his shoulder had become by the time the Rockies placed him on the 15-day disabled list on May 12. Before being shelved, he was 0-3 with a 4.09 ERA and two blown saves in five chances.
But Morales, who showed up at Coors Field on Friday after throwing two strong innings in a rehab appearance for Triple-A Colorado Springs the day before, said he feels energized.
Asked if he knew how much conditioning he had lost before going on the DL, he said, "No." Morales threw a bullpen session at the team's training center in Tucson, Ariz., before joining Colorado Springs. In Thursday night's 3-2 loss at Omaha, Morales struck out two, gave up a hit and hit a batter in two scoreless innings.
"I feel fine," said Morales, who said he'll throw for the Sky Sox on Sunday, possibly three innings. "I feel normal."
It almost sounds like Morales is being conditioned to start, which he did earlier in his career. However, manager Jim Tracy said recently the plan is to have him pitch multiple innings, which means more pitches to hone his location and control -- attributes that were inconsistent when he was pitching through weakness -- so that he'll be crisp when he returns to bullpen work. It was much the same as what the club did with current closer Manuel Corpas early in the year. Corpas gained sharpness while working in long relief.
"I don't care -- give me the ball, and I pitch, any situation," Morales said.