Cook biding time until return from broken finger
Rockies right-hander throwing before return to crowded rotation
PHOENIX -- Ubaldo Jimenez saw Aaron Cook sitting at a locker next to his on Tuesday afternoon. They shook hands and almost simultaneously asked one another how things were going. Then they broke into wide grins.
Jimenez can at least do something about his early-season struggles. He'll be back on the mound in good time. But this is about Cook, who in a sense has been in a worse place -- out of sight and mind, as far as the Rockies are concerned.
Cook is slowly finding his way back to relevance. A broken right ring finger has him on the 60-day disabled list, but he is eligible to return on June 13. Cook has been throwing at the team's training center in Scottsdale, Ariz., and on Wednesday, he will face Rockies hitters at Chase Field before the club plays the D-backs.
"On the Spring Training calendar, I'd be getting ready for my first start -- the two-inning start," Cook said. "I'm supposed to throw 30-40 pitches of live BP to simulate two innings tomorrow, then two to three innings in an extended spring game in Tucson. From there, I hope to get a couple starts in [Double-A] Tulsa and get ready."
Cook, 32, has had to watch a rotation that has performed well, with the exception of Jimenez's 0-2 mark and 7.20 ERA in a year interrupted by a thumb injury. If the entire rotation is hot when he is ready to return, fitting him in would be a challenge. Generally, the ebb and flow of the season will take care of that. At any rate, Cook isn't hoping someone has a misfortune that makes his return a screaming need.
"Everybody in this clubhouse is on the same page," Cook said. "If everybody is getting the job done, that's what needs to happen. I pull for every one of these guys. When I come back, if it's starting or bullpen or they're not ready to take me off the DL, then I'll do whatever I can to be ready when they need me."
The Rockies are happy to see him, even if they aren't going to be able to have him full-time for another month or so.
"Just for a quick glance, when 'Cookie' came through as we were getting our work done this afternoon, he looks terrific, as well as I've seen him look in a while," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. "What that correlates to remains to be seen. But it goes without saying the work and effort that he's put in, to be in the position he's in physically, is very impressive to see."
Cook hopes his return will begin a new, smoother phase of his career.
Cook went 16-9 with a 3.96 ERA in 2008, a year that included a dramatic three-inning appearance for the National League in the All-Star Game. After that, though, he was beset by a right shoulder strain in late '09, a series of ailments such as turf toe, a recurrence of turf toe and a broken right fibula last season, and this spring, right shoulder soreness and the broken finger -- when he accidentally shut it in a house door.
"After that All-Star Game, I finished up '08 pretty well, and after that it's been a battle," Cook said. "I've had some injuries and I haven't pitched the way I wanted to. Last year, I got into such a funk that when I ended up getting hurt it was kind of a blessing. I got to go down and work on my mechanics.
"Then, after breaking my finger in Spring Training, I was like, 'What in the world?' But I've been able to take my time to get where I want to be mentally and physically. I'm looking at it as I'm taking a little extra time off right now, but I should be able to finish the season strong."
Tracy won't put timetable on Wigginton's return
PHOENIX -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy is not putting a timetable on the return of utility man Ty Wigginton, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a left oblique strain.
Wigginton suffered the injury last Tuesday and is eligible to return on May 12.
"When you're dealing with an oblique, there's a little bit of touch-and-go with that," Tracy said. "A lot of it has to do with how he feels from day to day and what it is he feels he can tolerate.
"This past weekend, he did a lot of dry swings and didn't have any problem with that, but when the ball would be flipped to him or he got to the point where he wanted to hit it off of a tee -- any resistance, meaning the baseball -- there was some hesitancy with that."
The Rockies recalled third baseman Ian Stewart, their Opening Day starter, from Triple-A Colorado Springs to replace Wigginton.
Herrera appreciates occasional day off
PHOENIX -- Rockies second baseman Jonathan Herrera is a ball of energy, but he appreciates down time ever now and then.
Manager Jim Tracy gave Herrera the day off on Sunday, an 8-4 loss to the Pirates. Before then, Herrera was in a 2-for-13 rut.
Granted, no one expected Herrera to keep hitting in the high .300s, so it hasn't grown to the level of being a concern. Tracy said he simply wants to make sure Herrera stays fresh over the course of the season.
"The reason for the day off on Sunday was that we ventured into that one other time last month, and he came back like a house afire," Tracy said. "Here and there, you give him a chance to step off to the side and catch his breath. When you do that, the guy you've grown accustomed to seeing shows back up."
Herrera said the opportunity to simply warm up is welcome. The Rockies' last two series were in cold, rainy Chicago and cold, snowy Denver. There's no chance of rain or snow in the Arizona desert, and if there was, Chase Field has a roof.
"Today is a nice day to come back to work," Herrera said. "We were freezing out there over the weekend. Here, it's nice. It's not 30 degrees. Playing in that weather is not easy. I think the rest of the month is going to be nice back in Denver, but it's good to here and be warm for now."
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.