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07/24/07 3:35 AM ET

Notes: Rockies trying to gain ground

Team struggling to make way up division standings ladder

DENVER -- The Rockies have been on a treadmill-like streak for the past two months.

They've done a lot of work -- winning a National League-best 31 out of their last 53 since May 22 -- but they made up little ground. On May 21, the Rockies were seven games behind the Dodgers and in last place. Before Monday's game, the Rockies were 5 ½ games back and 4 ½ back of the second-place Padres.

"Those teams are having the kind of year where they're just not having any cold spells," Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis said. "That's the difficult thing about always coming from behind; you're always looking to see what they're doing. If they're not losing, they're making our job even more difficult."

The Rockies can do themselves a favor this week with a winning seven-game homestand. They start with a three-game series against the Padres, and then finish the week with a four-game series with the Dodgers.

The Rockies are in a position to make a run, thanks to a 5-5 road trip following the All-Star break. Last year, the Rockies started the break on the road and went 2-8.

"It's 5-5. We were hoping for more," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We thought we'd be able to accomplish more. We didn't so we move on. The trip, a lot of emphasis was put on before we left, because it basically was the trip where it started to crumble last year, in our fall. We didn't do that."

The Rockies finished .500 on the road trip after dropping three of four to the last place Nationals. The Nationals held the Rockies scoreless the last two games, while the inconsistent Rockies starting pitchers were suddenly consistent.

Rockies starters have made three straight quality starts, and not allowed more than three runs since last Monday in Pittsburgh. The Rockies bullpen, however, allowed seven runs in Washington.

"Bottom line is we still haven't scored a run," Hurdle said. "So, we need to recapture our identity offensively. Our bullpen and our starting pitching, I thought, held up very well through the 10-game standing, well enough for us to probably win more than five games."

Another rehab start for Hirsh: Rockies rookie starter Jason Hirsh was scheduled to make his second rehab start with Triple-A Colorado Springs on Monday night in Fresno.

Hirsh will throw five innings, or approximately 70 pitches, for the Sky Sox. In his first outing on Thursday in Colorado Springs, he went 1 2/3 innings and gave up six runs. Hurdle said he was disappointed with Hirsh, and wanted to see him establish his fastball.

"He really didn't do that his last outing," Hurdle said. "Maybe it was confidence, as far as how much weight he could put on his ankle. I think he's feeling a lot more confident about his ankle."

If Hirsh throws well, he could return to the team this week. As for veteran reliever Brian Fuentes, there was no news regarding his return from the disabled list. Hurdle said Fuentes would play catch on Tuesday.

Coolbaugh remembered: There was a moment of silence before Monday's game for Mike Coolbaugh. Coolbaugh, the Rockies Double-A affiliate Tulsa Drillers hitting coach, died on Sunday night after being struck in the head by a line drive in the ninth inning of a game between the Drillers and Little Rock Travelers in Little Rock, Ark.

Hill takes precaution: During Spring Training, Rockies first base coach Glenallen Hill was smoked on the elbow by a line drive from Alexis Gomez. He said it was the hardest he was ever hit with a baseball, and it haunted him.

After the Coolbaugh tragedy, Hill decided to take action by wearing a catcher's helmet -- one with a bill like a batting helmet, but no ear flaps -- during Monday night's 7-5 victory over the Padres at Coors Field.

Hill said he takes precautions to protect himself, but sometimes picking up the ball off the bat is difficult, because of the base coach's responsibilities.

"We are watching the ball being pitched, watching the ball being hit," Hill said. "We pay attention to the defensive alignment, all sorts of things. There's a lot of information and focus that goes on when a guy has a lead at first base, and you're watching the pitcher's move, and he delivers that ball.

"We just turn our heads, and in that split second, that line drive most of the time just misses you. [But] if a guy squares up a ball and it's at you, you're getting hit. There's just no way around it. And you've got your side turned and you're looking in. It's very awkward."

Hill called on baseball to look for a way to protect coaches, possibly with some kind of netting.

Rockies third base coach Mike Gallego said he is in a precarious position when there is a runner at second base, since he has to move close to the batter to get a proper angle on possible pickoff moves. He does not plan to add protection.

"Fortunately, I've never really thought about it, but I feel pretty comfortable about seeing the ball off the bat," he said. "After all, I was an infielder, so that gives me a little bit of an advantage of being able to get out of the way."

Next up: The Rockies rookie right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 3.60 ERA) gets his second Major League start this season Tuesday in Colorado. Right-hander Chris Young (9-3, 1.85) will get the start for the Padres.

C.J. Moore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.