02/23/2013 8:28 PM ET
Rutledge gets off to quick start in spring opener
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's first game since last May 30 -- when groin problems forced him to miss the rest of the season -- was the big Rockies story Saturday. But Josh Rutledge, who stood in for Tulowitzki last season, grabbed the headlines.
Rutledge, who hit well enough as a rookie shortstop to get the inside track at second base, had three hits and four RBIs in his first three at-bats against the D-backs in the Rockies' 11-2 opening win. They included a two-run single off Joe Paterson and a two-run double in the fourth off David Hernandez.
Rutledge, 23, was in Minor League camp last year, so Saturday was a new experience.
"This was the first time I've played on this field, so it's great," he said. "I had a lot of fun with those guys. I'm hoping to do some good things this year."
Last year, Tulowitzki and Rutledge sometimes worked together during batting practice, but Tulowitzki was never healthy enough to play. Saturday marked their first game as a middle-infield combination, although they did not have a chance to turn a double play.
"It was good for him to get three hits out of the way," Tulowitzki said. "What a good way to start your spring. He's got a one-up, I guess."
Rutledge hit .274 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs in 73 games last season.
Tulowitzki passes early test on basepaths
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki let his willingness to test his surgically repaired left groin on the bases speak for himself on Saturday.
Tulowitzki played 2 1/2 innings in the Rockies' Cactus League opener against the D-backs at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and finished 1-for-2. He had an RBI groundout in the first inning, and ran the bases after a third-inning single.
"Walt [Weiss, the Rockies' new manager] gave me the option if I were to get a hit in my last at-bat, would I like to stay on the bases and I said yeah, I wanted to," Tulowitzki said. "I got a base hit, just went to the next base, got to run a little bit, and ran to third. It was nice to be out there on the bases. I didn't want to come out and any questions to be raised."
Tulowitzki did not have any defensive chances in the 11-2 victory. He will not play play Sunday against the D-backs but said he would be fine to play Monday.
The plan is to gradually increase the intensity of his baserunning, but he didn't restrict his swing at all.
"I let it go up there," Tulowitzki said. "On that one swing and miss, [D-backs catcher Miguel] Montero said, 'I see you're feeling good.' That was cool for him to notice. There was no hesitation."
After rain and snowy slush hit the Scottsdale area Tuesday and Wednesday, crews at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick had to put in hours just to have the field presentable at game time.
"I didn't know how hard they had to work and how bad the field was until one of the grounds crew guys came up to me and said, 'It's a little soft at shortstop,'" Tulowitzki said. "I said, 'Woah.' It was soft but it was playable, but it wasn't terrible. No reason to come out of the game."
"There were some nerves but not because I didn't think my leg was OK. It was because the first day of Spring Training there's always some nerves."
CarGo going full bore from the outset
SCOTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez wants to have something close to complete game-speed timing when he takes off March 3 to represent Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
In the second inning of the first Cactus League game, the D-backs' Eric Hinske gave him a chance to dial up the intensity.
Hinske tried to take third on a fly ball to left field but Gonzalez's throw beat Hinske decisively. The hitting was not there yet -- 0-for-3 in four innings, although he reached on a fielder's choice and scored a run -- but that's part of preparation.
Gonzalez made his first All-Star trip last year, and with a healthy Troy Tulowitzki hitting behind him for a full season, he could finish better than his final numbers last year -- .303 with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs. Gonzalez hopes a strong Classic moves him in that direction, and toward that end has told new manager Walt Weiss that he wants to play as often as sensible during the early part of the Rockies' Cactus League schedule.
"I told him as much game I can play and as many at-bats I'm going to have are going to make be better for the WBC," Gonzalez said. "We're not trying to stay the whole game but we want to play more frequently.
"If I feel fine, I'm just going to go. When we get to Puerto Rico to play for Venezuela, if we have to play 20 innings, we have to play 20 innings in one game. It's a competition, a show. If you want to win the championship, you've gotta go play hard every day."
Gonzalez wanted to be a manageable playing weight this spring. Last year he reported at 230 pounds, but he is 222 now. He is not as worried as in the past about weight loss during the season. All he wants is to be sharp.
Rockies may seek rotation help for fifth spot
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-hander Drew Pomeranz's command tripped him up Saturday during the Rockies' Cactus League opener, an 11-2 victory over the D-backs at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Pomeranz, 24, spent most of last year in the Majors even though the injury-riddled Rockies would have preferred to give him more development time. A candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, Pomeranz started Saturday's game and gave up two runs on three hits and two walks.
Some of his sequences were good, like when he forced three grounders. But he lost Paul Goldschmidt on a 3-2 pitch in the first inning, and walked Eric Hinske to open the second.
"[Pomeranz] is a tough at-bat for anybody because you don't see the ball well," Weiss said. "Command is the next step for him, but I thought he did a nice job. I thought all our pitchers did a good job."
Righty Tyler Chatwood, another fifth-spot competitor, gave up two hits and a walk but struck out one.
Chatwood and Pomeranz will flip-flop Wednesday against the Padres at Peoria, Ariz., with Chatwood starting.
Chatwood, Pomeranz and lefties Christian Friedrich and Josh Outman have more concerns in their race for the fifth spot. The Rockies have been actively seeking a trade for an experienced starter who profiles well at Coors Field. ESPN and the Denver Post reported Saturday that the Rockies are pursuing the Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann, and could deal Friedrich (who had a back issue before camp and a stiff neck during camp and hasn't progressed to throwing in games) for him. The Denver Post, citing sources, also reported that the Dodgers have called the Rockies and other clubs while shopping left-hander Chris Capuano.
• Rockies outfield prospects Tim Wheeler and Kent Matthes each struggled last season, but they started 2013 off with home runs against the D-backs on Saturday. Wheeler hit a solo shot off Nelson Figueroa in the sixth inning, and Matthes went deep with the bases empty against Evan Marshall in the seventh.
Wheeler missed a month and a half early last year with a hand injury at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Although he hit a solid .303 in his first Triple-A season, his 33 extra-base hits represented a low for his Minor League career.
Matthes battled an oblique injury and finished the season at Double-A Tulsa with a .214 average, 17 home runs and 40 RBIs. He was the California League Most Valuable Player at Modesto the previous year.
• Infielder Jonathan Herrera, hoping to win a backup spot, went 3-for-3 with two RBIs on Saturday. Third baseman Chris Nelson, one of baseball's hottest hitters the last month and a half of last season, went 2-for-3.
• Weiss began talking to staff during the Winter Meetings about the team developing a "Blake Street Bullies" persona of aggressiveness and pressure on the opposition, and players are enjoying the way the staff is presenting the emphasis on aggressiveness.
Each morning, the team shows a video that is centered on the fundamental of the day. But it's not as if they're watching re-runs of the old Johnny Bench show for kids, "The Baseball Bunch."
"It has to do with something that we're working on that day, but it gets everybody pumped up, pretty much coming out of their seats just watching it," Weiss said. "You can tell everyone's real enthusiastic about getting out there and playing the game.
"It just depends on the day. Today we did outfield. Yesterday was just a video that was just a shrine to Jonny Herrera. Every one of them is just hustle. Guys see that, they want to do it because they know it looks good. Anything that helps the team win, everybody's buying into it."
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.