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06/21/08 8:29 PM ET

Quintanilla continues to stay sharp

Relegated to bench with Tulo's return, infielder takes extra BP

DENVER -- The early hitting session that takes place before batting practice usually is the refuge of the cold hitter. So what was Rockies infielder Omar Quintanilla doing there Saturday?

Todd Helton, in a 2-for-25 slump, at times tracked pitches from manager Clint Hurdle without swinging to practice judging pitches, before taking his cuts. Ian Stewart worked on his swing path in hopes of curbing strikeouts. Scott Podsednik is 3-for-his-last-8, but go back further and he's 5-for-37.

But Quintanilla has hit safely in nine of his past 10 games, posting a .412 batting average. The hot streak raised his overall average to .271, with a home run and 10 RBIs, with 13 of his 36 hits going for doubles.

Although he's hot, Quintanilla was hitting early to protect himself from the chill that can come with reduced playing time. Troy Tulowitzki returned Friday night to play shortstop, where Quintanilla had started all but one of the previous 25 games.

"It does make it a lot tougher when you don't play every day and don't get consistent at-bats, but I come out and work and get as many swings as I can," Quintanilla said. "But even when I'm playing, I like to hit extra."

Quintanilla, 26, called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on April 30 because of injuries to the Rockies' roster, has fared well enough to secure a place in Colorado, even when the team is healthy. The Rockies like his aggressiveness. He has just five walks, but that was at least partly because pitchers attacked with fastballs early in counts.

During his final starts, opposing starters approached him differently. Quintanilla caught on quickly, however.

"If I go out there and see a first-pitch fastball that I can handle, I'm wailing at it," Quintanilla said. "But it seems lately I've been taking more pitches and I've been seeing the speeds. That's helped a lot."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.