09/27/12 4:58 PM ET
Pacheco quietly making impact on Rockies
By Owen Perkins / MLB.com
But within the Rockies dugout, Jordan Pacheco's value is so strongly felt that manager Jim Tracy singled him out, along with Dexter Fowler, among the Most Valuable Rockies for the 2012 season.
"He's been a model of consistency," Tracy said. "To get this kid moving along in his career and finding out exactly what you had ... what we did with him at third, he's become an even better first baseman because of the exposure at third base. And what a game he caught [behind the plate] the other night. He sure hasn't forgotten how to do that.
"So you've got a very versatile player who's consistently hit .300 for much of the year, line drives from foul line to foul line. He's a special guy. He's a winning player. In the right scheme of things, this is a winning, championship-caliber player."
Pacheco has the highest average of any National League rookie, entering Thursday's game at .307 and adding a pair of hits in his first two at-bats against the Cubs, including a three-run homer to put the Rockies ahead in the first inning.
"I'm not surprised anymore by anything," Pacheco said before Thursday's game. "[Being a valuable team player] is something I try to take pride in. My dad always said, 'Take care of the intangible stuff.' Playing hard every day, hustling, that's something I learned from a bunch of guys on this team, especially Michael Cuddyer. Watching him play every day, it's kind of easy to go out there and try to play hard."
Though Fowler was out of the lineup again on Thursday, getting a precautionary MRI on his strained left wrist, Tracy saved his highest praise for his Gold Glove-caliber center fielder, who is having a career year at .300 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs.
"You're talking about a standard that's been maintained for much of the 2012 season," Tracy said of Fowler. "You go back and look at what Dexter Fowler did a year ago, compared to how consistent he's been this year. He had a very special second half in 2011, and was still standing out there at game 159, 160, 161 when we were very beat up like we are right now, but he was still out there grinding it. And you know what? Managers, they don't forget that type of stuff. Believe me."
Tracy looking ahead to brighter days in 2013
DENVER -- A three-game winning streak entering the home finale at Coors Field wasn't enough to color manager Jim Tracy's glasses rose. The Rockies skipper, who has managed to find bright spots on the club's darkest days, had no problem putting the team's performance in perspective when asked to grade it.
"It's a losing season," Tracy said. "It's a season where, from a youth standpoint, individuals have grown. But I don't manage Major League baseball teams to come in last place. So from that standpoint, as far as the standings are concerned. F. That's what it is.
"If you're going to be a championship caliber club, and you're going to win championships, your standards have to be set extremely high. You don't get an opportunity to play baseball in October if you screw it up in April, May, and June. And that's what we did."
There have been no shortage of bright spots on the field and at the plate, where the Rockies entered the final game at Coors Field hitting .305 (852-for-2797) at home. They have collected double digit hits in eight games in a row, and put together 10 hits, including a pair of homers, in the first three innings on Thursday against the Cubs.
"We don't lose baseball games here from a lack of effort and intensity," Tracy said. "Offense is not a problem here. And it won't be next year either."
The problem has been a pitching staff that has an ERA more than a half run higher than any team in the league and a starting rotation that has averaged 4.73 innings per game.
"We need to fix what gets done 60 feet and 60 inches away from home plate, bottom line," Tracy said. "There's no side-stepping it, there's no talking around it, that's what needs to be fixed. There's youth here that can help to repair it, but in order to be a competitive club and remain competitive in the National League West, you got to be able to pitch competitively. You have to be able to give your bullpen a chance."
With personnel changes all but certain in the offseason, Tracy remained optimistic about returning to the manager's office in 2013, though the talk of his "lifetime contract" that preceded the season is long-gone.
"I have a contract for 2013," Tracy said. "I love it here. I love the city, I love the people, I love the way I've been treated. This community is out of sight.
"Yes I do [feel good about the job I've done here]. I personally feel there's more I'm capable of giving."
Tulo contemplates return to lineup in Arizona
DENVER -- The Rockies have had their sights set on Spring Training for months already, but Troy Tulowitzki is getting ahead of the curve with a trip to the Scottsdale, Ariz., for an instructional league game on Sunday, a day before the Rockies arrive in Phoenix for the season's final series.
"If I feel good, I might possibly play with the [Rockies] in Arizona," said Tulowitzki, who has been out with a groin injury since late May. "If I don't, I'll stay in instruction until I feel right to go into the offseason. I have to listen to my body. If I'm not 100 percent, if I'm 80 or 90 percent, there's no reason to risk it out there.
"I have to do everything I possibly can to prepare myself to play every game next year. It's been frustrating for me. You learn from it and you grow from it."
Tulo's frustrations mirror those of a club that's one loss away from tying a franchise record of 95, but has temporarily staved off the specter of a 100-loss campaign thanks to a three-game winning streak heading into their final home game on Thursday.
"Obviously, what we have in this locker room did not work, so in professional sports there's usually changes," Tulo said. "I don't know if that's going to be in this clubhouse -- which I'm sure there will be a few. I don't know if it's going to be the coaches, I don't know if it's going to be the front office. What it may hold, time will tell. It should be interesting, and there should be moves made after a year like this."
Tulo was quick to recognize the heart of the problem.
"We didn't really pitch," he said.
But he also felt the mandated change to a four-man rotation and 75 pitch limit for starters was hard to handle at mid-season.
"I'm frustrated with that," Tulo said. "You'd like a set agenda. If it doesn't work, then after the season we'll look to change up some things, but to have things during the season being switched, such as the pitching. It gets a little frustrating because you don't quite get it all the time, you don't know what's going on, you have to trust people. It wore on me a little bit. Hopefully we get that squared away in this offseason and don't have to deal with that again."
The bright side of an injury-plagued season has been the performance of a core of rookie position players who have started a collective 367 games through Thursday, with five of Thursday's starters hitting .275 or better and four flirting with .300.
"Maybe if I didn't get hurt, [shotstop Josh] Rutledge might not have ever got called up," Tulo said. "So to see him possibly be the second baseman next year, and DJ LeMahieu's done a great job too -- that position battle should be a good one next year.
"Start from square one and say these guys are two good young ball players and let them fight it out in spring Training. That's a bright thing. Competition brings out the best in guys."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.