PHOENIX -- It's looking increasingly as if Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart, who suffered a sprained right knee in the first inning of the first Cactus League game, is a longshot to begin the season on anything other than the disabled list.
Stewart, who suffered the injury in a collision with left fielder Carlos Gonzalez while chasing a foul pop-up, has not appeared in a Cactus League game since. Rockies manager Jim Tracy said he will not rush Stewart.
"He's only played three innings and it's the 11th of March, so am I a little concerned?" Tracy said. "I'll tell you this: I do not want to feel compelled to think we have taken anybody and tried to rush him to the finish line to try to throw him out there. You're asking for trouble, and I had enough of that last year with 833 days worth [of combined disabled list days]."
Veteran Ty Wigginton could make the bulk of the starts at third in Stewart's absence. Utilityman Jonathan Herrera, who is strong defensively, also could play the position.
Paulino looking forward to bullpen opportunity
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's not a demotion if you feel uplifted.
Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca told right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino on Thursday morning that he would be a reliever, and no longer would be a candidate for a possible fifth-starter opening. Veteran righty Aaron Cook is battling shoulder problems and might not be ready when the season starts.
Right-hander Esmil Rogers, who spent last year bouncing between starter and reliever -- and Denver and Colorado Springs -- is a candidate. So are righty Clayton Mortensen, acquired from the Athletics just before the start of Spring Training, and righty Greg Reynolds, who has had mostly positive work this spring. Veteran John Maine has drawn positive reviews this spring, although he is less than a year removed from major shoulder surgery and is more likely to start the year in the Minors to complete his recovery.
Paulino, primarily a starter the last two seasons with the Astros, was thankful, rather than disappointed that he was removed from the contest.
"I am extremely happy with the Rockies and I thank God I am here with this new organization," Paulino said in a phone interview with Rafael Rojas Cremonesi, reporting for the Meridiano newspaper in Venezuela. "I am pretty satisfied with what I've been told this morning, and I thank the manager and coaches for being so honest and sincere with me. I honestly appreciate it."
2010 Spring Training - Colorado Rockies
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But overpowering stuff over a short period of time is a plus when used correctly. The Rockies did it with left-hander Jeremy Affeldt (now with the Giants) a few years back, and found success making right-hander Matt Belisle a member of the current bullpen after some up-and-down results as a starter.
Paulino will go to a reliever's schedule of short, frequent appearances, and have some back-to-back outings late in the spring, Tracy said.
"Where that fit is ... it's somewhere, but we don't know exactly where just yet," manager Jim Tracy said. Paulino left the meeting ready to become the next Rockies pitcher to find success in relief.
"They are very respectful of their players and they are honest and straight about their plans about you," Paulino said. "I know it'll be a change of pace. I'll have to be ready every day, but I'm willing to do it. "
The Rockies can work without a fifth starter until April 10, the regular season's ninth game. That would give Cook some time beyond the start of the regular season to work into shape. Tracy said the Rockies haven't committed to skipping the fifth starter the first time through the rotation, since there is an argument for giving the rest of the pitchers and extra day off.
Rogers shows better stuff in most recent outing
PHOENIX -- After getting hit hard in his last outing, when the Royals bested him for four runs and four hits in three innings, all Rockies right-hander Esmil Rogers cared about was one sheet of paper -- and it wasn't the stat sheet.
"After I pitched, I looked at the sheet of paper in the clubhouse and saw I was going to start again," Rogers said.
Rogers bounced back on Thursday. The final numbers were similar -- three runs and six hits in four innings of a 9-8 victory over the Brewers -- but it was mostly a thumbs-up effort. Rogers struck out four, and looked dominant with the exception of a four-batter sequence in the third inning.
Rogers erased the first two batters, but gave up singles to Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez, a home run to Ran Braun on a 1-2 pitch, and another single to Prince Fielder. He followed that up, however, by retiring the last four batters he faced to complete his outing.
So there were pluses and minuses on the ledger of Rogers, who is hoping to earn the opportunity to begin the year in the starting rotation if Aaron Cook has not recovered from right-shoulder soreness by then.
Rogers, who went up and down between the Majors and Triple-A last year, has worked on a changeup in an effort to show he can start. He has been almost exclusively a starter in the Minors, but had more relief appearances (20) than starts (eight) last year.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Rogers worked on a delivery flaw with his landing leg, which created problems in his last start.
"He was throwing quality fastballs for strikes today," Tracy said. "He made the one bad pitch to Ryan Braun. The thing was it was two out, nobody on, but the understanding part of it is the two [previous] base hits were good pitches that just found real good spots and got through there."
Helton shows fine form in victory
PHOENIX -- Rockies veteran first baseman Todd Helton had his best spring outing Thursday, with two doubles in the 9-8 victory over the Brewers.
What was instructive about Helton's day was the pitchers he victimized. The first double came off left-handed starter Chris Narveson. The second was off Milwaukee's hard-throwing closer, John Axford.
The back- and leg-strength issues that led to a .256 batting average last year were not present. Could this be the beginning of a bounce-back season? Helton hit .325 in 2009, as the Rockies made the playoffs.
"The two that he hit today, that was the Todd Helton line drive that you've drawn accustomed to seeing, the ball that gets in the gap or goes over somebody's head very quickly," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "The way he turned on that ball today, that 3-1 pitch from Axford, I remember seeing a lot of that in 2009. I saw a lot of it, and didn't really like it from the other side of the field for a couple of other clubs."
Gonzalez forgets jersey, not how to hit
PHOENIX -- That guy in the strange number looked familiar on Thursday.
Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez forgot to pack his No. 5 jersey for the trip to play the Brewers at Maryvale. A No. 85 was available, but third base coach Rich Dauer took that one and gave Gonzalez his No. 25. After going 1-for-3 with an RBI, Gonzalez joked that he shouldn't have made the trade. He could have fooled the Brewers into thinking he was an unknown Minor Leaguer.
"I should have worn 85 so I'd have seen fastballs, instead of curveballs and sliders on the first pitch," he said. "Everybody forgets stuff."
Right-hander Mortensen making adjustments
PHOENIX -- The Rockies consider right-hander Clayton Mortensen a candidate for their fifth-starter slot, but he's also headed into an experimental phase of his Spring Training.
Mortensen, 25, obtained from the Athletics for Minor League right-hander Ethan Hollingsworth, has thrown three scoreless innings in three Cactus League appearances. Right-hander Esmil Rogers may have the inside track on a slot, which could be open if veteran Aaron Cook's sore right shoulder doesn't heal in time, while right-handed former No. 1 pick Greg Reynolds is in the mix.
However, Mortensen will have to do it while changing on the fly, so to speak. Manager Jim Tracy said pitching coach Bob Apodaca has some tweaks to Morensen's delivery.
"There are a couple of subtle adjustments we are making with him," Tracy said. "I wanted him to hear it from me, to just relax and try those things, do the things that Bobby is working on with him. But don't be compelled to think if it doesn't work out immediately it's a black mark against you, or anything like that. This is the time to do those type of things."
Mortensen made one start for the Athletics last year, going six innings and giving up four runs, three earned, on July 3 against the Indians. He didn't figure in the decision in the Athletics' 5-4 victory. Mortensen went 13-6 with a 4.25 ERA for Triple-A Sacramento in 26 starts.
Tracy welcomes Karl to bench
PHOENIX -- Denver Nuggets basketball coach George Karl spent the first five innings sitting alongside Rockies manager Jim Tracy during the 9-8, 10-inning victory over the Brewers on Thursday.
Tracy and Karl have developed a friendship, with Tracy spending a day with Karl earlier in the basketball season. The Nuggets are playing the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.
Tracy said he is impressed with the job Karl has done with the Nuggets, who spent much of the season dealing with trade rumors involving star Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets have played well since trading Anthony to the New York Knicks.
"The neat thing about it is he is a true fan of baseball, and he understands it, knows the people, and follows the game, just love I like to follow the NBA," Tracy said. "There's opportunity to spend time and talk to one another. I commended him. For me, the job he's done, with everything he dealt with early on, going back to the summer with Carmelo and all that, to have that club at 10 games over .500, that's Coach of the Year material as far as I'm concerned."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.