DENVER -- In many divisions, four games under .500 at the All-Star break would place a team well out of the pennant race.
But in the National League West, the Rockies (46-50) sit just 4 1/2 games behind the first-place D-backs and the Rockies are still convinced that a season-changing winning streak is around the corner. Boosting their chances at that kind of run is a lineup that's finally back at full strength after shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and center fielder Dexter Fowler both rejoined the lineup for the final series before the break.
The pieces of one of the NL's most productive offense back in place, right fielder Michael Cuddyer sees no reason why the Rockies can't return to April form, when they started 13-4 and finished five games over .500.
"You saw in the first month of the season when we were full-go and everything was clicking on all cylinders, how we played," Cuddyer said Thursday, before the Rockies -- who open the second half Friday night against the Cubs at Coors Field -- conducted a workout. "So then, obviously, May we ran into some injuries, some trouble and then we were able to weather that storm, now everybody's back."
The more pressing obstacle in the way of a second-half playoff run is a starting rotation with three reliable starters, but two spots with few guarantees. Drew Pomeranz and Juan Nicasio will fill out the rotation for at least the immediate future, and their teammates are confident the rotation will do what's necessary behind a lineup that boasts three All-Stars and calls hitter-friendly Coors Field home.
Nicasio showed promise in his first start with the Rockies in more than two weeks last Friday, surrendering just three hits in seven innings. Pomeranz has not looked big-league ready in three starts, but did develop a slider over the break that he hopes will allow him to become a season-long member of the rotation.
"I think we threw the ball pretty well in the first half. Second half, I don't see why we can't do the same thing," starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood said. "I think everybody else has kind of gone on their hot streak this year, rattled off 10 in a row, and we haven't done that yet. I think that's just a matter of time before we do that and catch some fire."
With a 10-game homestand beginning Friday, the upcoming stretch could be a key indicator of the Rockies' chances of playing in October. The veteran Cuddyer sees hope in Colorado's ability to rebound from the roughest waters, like a 2-7 road trip near the end of June that pushed them back under .500 for the first time since the season began.
"Every time it looks like our team's going to break, we end up responding, end up bouncing back and playing really well," Cuddyer said. "I think that comes from management, like Walt [Weiss]. Walt never panics, [hitting coach] Dante [Bichette] never panics.
"I think that's been the difference between this year and last year, is when things started to go bad, we pushed up against it and we responded."
Oswalt eager to help Rockies contend in NL West
DENVER -- Right-hander Roy Oswalt believes the Rockies will catch fire and contend for a playoff spot, and he hopes he can be a part of it.
An MRI confirmed that he has a left hamstring strain, which he suffered on July 7. Oswalt said he feels much better than the first four to five days after the injury, and he's been throwing on flat ground to keep the arm in shape. He didn't speculate on when he would be able to return, since he has not dealt with a hamstring injury before.
"We're in position coming into the break, we're not out of it by any means," Oswalt said. "The biggest thing is just being consistent, and run off eight out of 10, 10 out of 12."
Oswalt (0-4, 7.64 ERA since joining the team on June 20) demonstrated good movement and velocity on his fastball, but the secondary pitches weren't sharp. He also said he will return with a better plan.
"Going back and looking at tape, I've got to mix it up a little bit more, inside and out," he said. "I pitched a lot away the first two or three games and got hurt a few times away. I need to change eyesight a little bit, away and inside."
Oswalt, 35, signed a Minor League deal with the Rockies in early May and didn't appear in the Majors until June 20. He had a similar year last year, when he signed late, struggled and didn't feel he fit in with the Rangers (4-3, 5.80 ERA in 17 games, nine starts).
Both years he did not have a Spring Training or the early part of a season to work through struggles. Oswalt said showing up in the middle of the year is not by design.
"It would have been great if I'd had a job offer coming into Spring Training -- I had some bullpen offers," he said. "Everyone asks, 'Does this guy not want to play?' I can't make myself get on somebody's team. They've got to offer. You can't show up at somebody's Spring Training and say, 'I'm playing for you.'"
Oswalt said he is comfortable with the Rockies. The 100-pitch limit the club has for starters is not a problem for him, since he believes in staying in the strike zone. He hopes to be able to show the Rockies what he can do, not only to help this year, but to possibly entice the club to invite him back next year.
"I'm hoping to get back and have some starts, be effective," Oswalt said. "I feel like I can be. I haven't hit that groove yet where I can roll off 10, 12 wins in a row. I'm trying to get back in the sync of things. I'm going to pound the strike zone. I don't walk a lot of guys."
Pomeranz toys with slider during the break
DENVER -- While most players were busy resting up for the second half, left-hander Drew Pomeranz used his time for a different pursuit -- developing a new pitch.
Pomeranz made a start for Double-A Tulsa on Tuesday, and though his final line was far from dominant, his primary goal was to test out a slider he first learned just two or three days earlier. Even after he allowed seven runs in 5 1/3 innings, he's confident enough in the new pitch to use it in the big leagues.
"I was down there working on a slider and I think that was the main focus more than results," Pomeranz said. "So, felt pretty good with that and try to work that into my next start I think."
Pomeranz, expected to start Monday, admitted it was not easy to break out the pitch in a game so soon after he learned it, but said the adjustment went better than expected.
After spending much of the first half with Triple-A Colorado Springs, the lefty has struggled in three big starts, going 0-3 with an 8.76 ERA. High pitch counts have limited Pomeranz's success and he has not made it through the fifth inning in any of his starts.
But with a new slider in hand to use alongside his usual repertoire of a fastball, curveball and changeup, Pomeranz is trying to look at the second half as a clean slate.
"I just want to reset," he said. "The walks were killing me. I was walking people and thinking too much, trying to do too much out there. Just go out there and throw strikes and pump the zone, I think things are going to play out a lot better.
"I've been doing that all year, just trying to fill up the zone, and I've pitched a lot better and feel like I've gotten a lot better. Then I came up here and didn't really do it."
Pomeranz will try to become one of the missing pieces in the Rockies' rotation as they prepare for a second-half playoff charge. Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood and Jorge De La Rosa have proven to be consistent arms at the top of the rotation, each carrying an ERA no higher than 3.50, but Pomeranz knows the Rockies need him and Juan Nicasio to keep them in contention for the National League West crown.
"Those guys have really stepped up and done their job and I think it's time for me -- and Nicasio, obviously, threw very well his last start -- I think it's time for us to do our part in this."
Colorado announces post-break rotation
DENVER -- The Rockies made official their rotation coming out of the All-Star break.
Colorado announced before the break that left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (9-5, 3.21 ERA) would start Friday night against the Cubs, but held off on the rest. Right-hander Juan Nicasio (5-4, 4.89) will start Saturday night and righty Tyler Chatwood (5-3, 2.56) will open Sunday afternoon.
The club did not announce a starter for Monday, but the plan is to recall lefty Drew Pomeranz (0-3, 8.76) from Double-A Tulsa for Monday in the opener of a four-game series against the Marlins. Righty Jhoulys Chacin (9-4, 3.50) will start Tuesday and De La Rosa again Wednesday.
Monfort confident Rox are viable contender in NL West
DENVER -- Rockies owner Dick Monfort believes the team is better than its 46-50 record at the All-Star break.
Colorado was 35-32 when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki suffered a broken rib that cost him 25 games. Now he's back, and Monfort believes the Rockies -- just 4 1/2 games behind the D-backs in a National League West that no one has grabbed hold of -- are viable.
"You've got him [Tulowitzki] back -- you don't know for how long; he's got a history -- but if he stays healthy, yeah I think so," Monfort said.
As for improvements before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Monfort said the team seeks "the right starting pitcher," but will not give up prospects for a rental pitcher, such as the Cubs' Matt Garza, who is in the last year of his contract. He also dismissed any thought that the team would trade any of its regulars, especially All-Star right fielder Michael Cuddyer, whose name has been mentioned in the online rumor mill.
"Not a chance," Monfort said. "You look at how vulnerable we are when we lose Tulo, he [Cuddyer] is a right-handed bat," Monfort said. "Right-handed corner bats with power are pretty important. You put into the mix he's a guy that has Major League at-bats, and he plays first base."
Monfort said it's possible teams will reduce their asking price for starting pitching closer to the deadline. He also said the Rockies could opt to improve the bullpen.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.