CHICAGO -- The Rockies' pitching plan is most likely going to become a little less formulaic.From late June until this week, Colorado used four starters with a pitch limit around 75 -- which usually prevented them from facing a lineup a third time -- and three "piggy-back" pitchers who took turns being available to throw 50 pitches in a game. Jhoulys Chacin's return from the disabled list this returned the club to a five-man rotation, but for now, the limit remains. Manager Jim Tracy said Friday he was not in position to discuss the pitching plan in detail. However, all along, the Rockies said they were looking for a pitcher or two who could be given a little longer leash. Chacin -- who went six innings in Monday's 6-2 victory over the Mets -- and veteran lefty Jeff Francis are candidates for higher pitch ceilings. Granted, the numbers still suggest a pitch limit works in Colorado. Throughout the history of the franchise, seasons of 150 or more innings by a starter are often followed by those of injury or diminished effectiveness. Also, batting averages rise the third time through an order, and they tend to rise dramatically in games at Coors Field -- regardless of the pitcher. However, the Rockies have to balance the need to preserve starters with the load on the bullpen. Going into Friday, Josh Roenicke led Major League relievers with 73 1/3 innings pitched, and primary setup man Matt Belisle was third with 64 1/3. Tracy said his focus is still getting the younger pitchers -- rookie lefty Drew Pomeranz and second-year right-handers Alex White and Tyler Chatwood -- to use the pitch limit to learn to be more efficient. "There are some learning points," Tracy said. "I know that none of these young starters that we have want to be taken out of the game after three innings. I'm OK with that. Pitch better. Pitch more consistently, and I won't take you out."
Colvin, LeMahieu return to Wrigley in groove
CHICAGO -- Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu picked a satisfying time to be playing well.The Rockies acquired Colvin and LeMahieu from the Cubs last December. Colvin entered Friday's opener at Wrigley Field hitting .294 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs, while LeMahieu was at .281 with a homer and nine RBIs. From Aug. 8 through Thursday's 1-0 victory over the Mets -- the Rockies' fifth in a row -- Colvin was hitting .396 with a home run, nine RBIs, a .442 on-base percentage and a .583 slugging percentage. Since becoming a starter on Aug. 8, LeMahieu has hit .374 in 14 games. "You always want to come back and play against your old team, although it's more important as a team to keep rolling and get another series," LeMahieu said. The trade hasn't worked out as well for the Cubs. Third baseman Ian Stewart was lost for the season in June with a left wrist injury, and righty relief pitcher Casey Weathers hasn't cracked the big league roster. A new Cubs front office that took over last season and did not have much history with either player made the deal. "I see it as I'm over here now," Colvin said. "I enjoyed Chicago, but now I'm a Rockie and that's my focus." Interestingly, the rosters of the teams are so similar that Colvin and LeMahieu most likely would have had opportunities to play had they stayed in the Windy City. The Cubs, who at 47-76 were one of the two National League teams with a worse record than the Rockies' 50-73 entering Friday, have eight rookies on their 25-man roster. LeMahieu was one of 10 Colorado rookies on the roster Friday, and Colvin is a third-year player. The Rockies are proving a team can win with young players. The pitching, a trouble spot all year, has improved and helped Colorado win 12 of its past 17 games. Offensive execution also has been sharp. LeMahieu went just 2-for-12 in the sweep of the Mets, but his lone RBI in the series came when the Rockies called for a squeeze bunt and he put a difficult pitch into fair territory. "Our pitching has allowed us to do a lot of things offensively, allowing us to be aggressive," said LeMahieu, who hit .250 in 37 games with the Cubs last season. "The last five games have been great. It's been a lot of fun, playing defense behind those guys." Colvin's success is a testament to patience. After a promising rookie year with the Cubs in 2010 (.254, 20 homers, 56 RBIs), he dropped to .150 in 80 games and spent considerable time in Triple-A last year. The numbers made him expendable to new management. But the lessons of last season proved valuable. Colvin entered the season as the Rockies' fourth outfielder but played himself into regular opportunities, and he had a .305 batting average at the All-Star break. However, he slumped for nearly a month, batting .180 in the first 20 games out of the break. But various injuries -- such as the season-ending right hip injury to Todd Helton and the potentially season-ending oblique injury to right Michael Cuddyer -- gave Colvin more chances, and he has found his swing again. "I talked to [hitting coach] Carney [Lansford], who just told me there are going to be times you don't see the ball as well," Colvin said. "He just said, 'You have to believe you can get out of it, not stress about it and keep plugging along.' I did enough worrying last year."
Rockies third-base coach Rich Dauer missed Friday's game because he will be inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame on Saturday, along with former pitcher Mike Mussina and longtime Orioles scout Walter Youse.Dauer played all 10 of his Major League seasons with the Orioles, was a member of the 1983 World Series team and owns two American League single-season record fielding steaks for a second baseman -- 86 errorless games and 425 errorless chances. Bench coach Tom Runnells took Dauer's place and will be in the third-base coaching box Saturday. Center fielder Dexter Fowler, who suffered a right ankle injury on the bases Wednesday night, was off crutches Friday and won't start in the three-game series with the Cubs, although Tracy said he could show up as a pinch-hitter Sunday. Fowler can move forward, but the Rockies are concerned about his ability to move lateally. Second baseman Josh Rutledge, hampered by sore left quadriceps throughout the current road trip, didn't start Friday's opener with the Cubs, but he was "doing better," Tracy said. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (left groin surgery) and first baseman Jason Giambi (viral syndrome) were set to begin their rehab assignments with Double-A Tulsa on Friday night. Tulowitzki was scheduled to play five innings and Giambi was scheduled to be the designated hitter.
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.