DENVER -- With catcher Wilin Rosario leading National League rookies in home runs with five and slugging at .559, he has worked into a near-even split in playing time with veteran Ramon Hernandez.But even if Rosario hadn't been alternating starts, he would have been in the lineup Friday night against the Mariners. That's because Hernandez's work during Thursday's walk-filled, four-hour, 9-7 loss to the D-backs bordered on abuse for a catcher who turns 36 on Sunday. "The guy that caught yesterday caught 222 pitches and sat back there for four hours of not a 15-inning game but a nine-inning game," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "I'm not going to run him back out there again today. That's ludicrous. "And some of the pitches he had to try to catch were a workout in themselves. You've got to be mindful about it. You're talking about a 13-year veteran."
Helton searching for consistency with bat
DENVER -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton entered Friday night's game against the Mariners hitting .236 -- the lowest average of his career at this date -- and is simply trying to find the swing that was present early but is now lost."It's basically like a man driving and he gets lost," Helton said. "What's the first thing he wants to do? Speed up and go faster instead of slow down, stop and ask directions." Before this year, the lowest Helton's average as of May 18 was .262 in 1999, his second full season in the Majors. Often it's in the .300s. Helton said he simply wants to hit the ball where it's pitched -- a philosophy that has built a career that will be worthy of Hall of Fame discussion when it's done. He believes it can change quickly once he corrects the urge to rush his swing. "I want to have the ability and feeling that when you're back in launch position, wherever the ball is pitched you can hit it and hit it hard," Helton said. "I felt like that early, that I was in that position. Of late I've been jumpy. I've been not seeing the ball because I'm jumping. "It's a whole snowball effect. Then your bat feels like it's slow. What do you want to do then? You want to try harder, which is the opposite of what you should be doing." Any slump by Helton brings immediate questions about the health of his back, which has been an on-again, off-again problem in recent years. In an attempt to keep him as healthy as possible, manager Jim Tracy has been giving him frequent days off, like for day games after night games or after some road trips. Helton isn't saying whether the back is a problem. "I could give you all kinds of good excuses, but I need to go out, improve and get better," Helton said. "Basically I need to be more consistent, having a consistent approach." Tracy said it might not take much to put Helton in the right direction. "He's one good swing away from saying, 'Oh my gosh, how hot is he?'" Tracy said. "He may have taken it yesterday on that 3-0 pitch [for a ninth-inning single]. "He will find it. He takes one swing and there it is. Todd Helton -- that's why he is who he is. What's going on lately is he's hit the bottom of the ball a little bit more than he likes to hit the bottom of the ball." Helton had some game-winning swings early but finished April hitting .254 and in May is hitting .205 without a homer. "It feels good in the cage, but when you get in the box .230 [on the scoreboard] stares at you, and it takes a little bit away," Helton said. "We may be having this conversation and I'm hitting .300 in a week. Or I could be hitting .200."
Positive outlook on De La Rosa's rehab work
DENVER -- Rockies left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa felt some stiffness at the end of his four-inning rehab start at Double-A Tulsa on Thursday, but reviews were generally positive as he continues his comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery, head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said.De La Rosa was in Denver on Friday being evaluated and did some normal light throwing, after pitching four innings and giving up three hits, with four strikeouts and three walks against Northwest Arkansas. He threw 73 pitches. It was his fourth rehab start, but his previous outing was ended after one inning because of left forearm stiffness. If De La Rosa stays on schedule, he will start for Triple-A Colorado Springs on Tuesday and make another Triple-A start on May 27 before returning to the Rockies' rotation on June 2 against the Dodgers at Coors Field. But Dugger said the schedule could be adjusted if there are problems. The Rockies will know more based on how De La Rosa feels Saturday, when he could be throwing a bullpen session based on how he feels. "He threw too many pitches for four innings, but he did good," Dugger said. "Velocity is going to come and go, especially that first year out of rehab -- look at [Adam] Wainwright with St. Louis. Velocity is up and down. "There's going to be some stiffness. It's repeating mechanics that's important." Also, right-hander Juan Nicasio said he experienced lingering soreness in his sore right hip but felt better after receiving treatment Friday. Nicasio was hit on the hip by a line drive from the second batter of Thursday's game, the D-backs' Willie Bloomquist. Pain and stiffness in the hip was one reason Nicasio lasted just 4 2/3 innings and walked five to tie a career high. The Rockies' bullpen was every bit as wild, and the Rockies lost, 9-7. Nicasio did not figure in the decision.
Young arms lead to growing pains for Rox
DENVER -- Turning over a pitching staff to youth can really hurt, and the Rockies are feeling the pain.The current rotation has inexperienced arms in Juan Nicasio, and rookies Alex White (Friday night's starter against the Mariners) and Christian Friedrich. Drew Pomeranz is not expected to be at Triple-A Colorado Springs for long. In the bullpen, the Rockies are scuffling with lefty Rex Brothers, who hasn't completed a full big league season, in the primary setup role. The result is a 5.00 ERA, including 5.07 from the rotation, and 143 total walks. Fans are having a hard time being asked to be patient after the team fashioned a veteran lineup. But manager Jim Tracy insists he can take it. He also believes the situation can correct itself before it's too late for the 2012 Rockies. "I'm not so sure that as we go along here that we're going to have to wait until next year," Tracy said. "We're going through a little bit of a learning curve. We have three rookie starters in the rotation, one [Friedrich, who will start Saturday against the Mariners] who has had two Major League starts but has been brilliant in those. You know that when you're dealing with young people, there's going to be some up and down. "You have to roll with the punches. But if you stay the course, remain patient, knowing full well there are going to be jabs taken and there's going to be criticism, and if your shoulders are real broad and you have very narrow focus, you're going to get rewarded for this. I promise you. They are very good young arms." It's not that Tracy and pitching coach Bob Apodaca -- both of whom are receiving constant criticism -- don't have their difficult moments. The pitchers may be young, but there is no minimum age for throwing strikes. Tracy met with his young pitchers several days ago to encourage them to challenge hitters. The basic issue is they're trying to have pitchers use the same aggressiveness that made them prospects in the first place. "If somebody barrels one up and hits it a long way, so be it," Tracy said. "The general message is very simple. If you pitch defensively, you will fail. That theory, if you will, has never changed at any level with any pitcher against any hitter. If you're pitching not to fail, you're not going to like the outcome."
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.