Struggling rookie Nelson gets breather
Rockies go with Herrera at second for finale in Bronx
NEW YORK -- With rookie second baseman Chris Nelson struggling through an 0-for-11 skid and a 1-for-16 road trip, Rockies manager Jim Tracy went with Jonathan Herrera on Sunday against the Yankees.
Herrera has battled his own issues, with his average dropping from .303 on May 7 to .245 going into Sunday, but he had a hit in each of his last three starts. Tracy allowed that if Herrera turns hot and Nelson, who is capable of playing third base and shortstop in a pinch, continues to struggle, the two could interchange roles.
"Today is one of those days where it's somewhat necessary to change them out, to give Chris a chance to catch his breath a little bit," Tracy said. "He's been fighting it the last four or five days, and you're mindful of that. You're putting a guy in that is going to give you a competitive at-bat, maybe not with the same type of power that the other guy provides. But you know the ball's going to be caught and you know that the situations offensively that show up and involve him, you'll know he'll be ready for them. We're giving up very little, and that's a nice thing to know when you've got to make a switch-out like this."
Tracy said with the Rockies having begun a stretch of 17 straight days of games between now and the All-Star break -- thanks to Monday's makeup game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field -- he will be looking for a time to rest his key offensive players, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and center fielder Carlos Gonzalez.
Smith showing he can hit lefties too
NEW YORK -- Rockies right fielder Seth Smith insisted sending a message wasn't on his mind when he delivered a run-scoring, pinch-hit single off Yankees left-hander C.C. Sabathia in the eighth inning of Saturday afternoon's 8-3 loss.
As has been the case much of the season, Smith did not start against a lefty.
"There was a runner on third; you always want to get a hit, and if you do, you can get an RBI for it," Smith said. "Other than that, no message. They sent me up there to hit, so I hit."
Manager Jim Tracy said he will use Smith against left-handers, but not against Sabathia. Left-handed hitters Todd Helton and Jason Giambi started and looked bad in some at-bats Saturday. Tracy said the decision was to protect Smith's current roll. He went into Sunday's start against Yankees righty Ivan Nova having hit .421 (8-for-19) with two home runs and three doubles on the current road trip.
For the season, Smith has hit .335 against right-handers and .225 against lefties, in just 40 at-bats.
"I want to play every day," Smith said. "I'm here to play. I'm not here to sit around and pinch-hit. Anytime I'm not in the lineup, I'm not excited or happy about it. That being said, I don't worry about things I can't control directly. Obviously, I can control it if I got a hit every time I faced a lefty, I'm sure they'd have to play me. But if I'm in there, I get ready to start. If not, I get ready to pinch-hit."
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.