04/01/2013 8:08 PM ET
Helton's 16th straight opener could be his last
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- It was a quiet Monday for Rockies veteran first baseman Todd Helton, who started his 16th straight, and likely last, Opening Day.
Helton, in the last year of his contract, went 0-for-3 with a walk in Colorado's 5-4 loss, which ended his hit streak in openers at 13. His string of openers is the longest of any active player.
Sensing it could be the last for Helton, 39, who saw his 2012 season end in August with surgery on his right hip before he also underwent a left knee procedure during the offseason, manager Walt Weiss prevailed upon Helton to savor the season.
"I told him, 'You might go out and hit .320 and want to play for another three or four more years.' And the way he was swinging the bat [in Spring Training], that might happen," Weiss said. "But he might not, too. So I just told him to keep that perspective. When you go out here, smell the hot dogs and just take it all in, if this is his last one. It's been a really special career."
First-year manager Weiss expects to have 'butterflies'
MILWAUKEE -- Walt Weiss says he slept well Sunday night. He needed the rest.
Last year's head coach at Regis Jesuit High School is a first-year manager with the Rockies this year. While Weiss admitted things were moving fast Monday morning, he kept it in perspective.
"Managing is going to be tough because I've never done it before, but I still believe the challenge is tougher as a player," Weiss said. "As a player, the challenges are physical and mental. The manager, it's just mental. But in the end it's competition, and competition should bring out some emotion in you. I'm sure I'll have butterflies and I'll be excited."
Weiss wrote out many lineups before Spring Training and experimented throughout camp, but in the end, he came up with the lineup that was expected. There will be some play within the lineup; it's something he learned from his mentor, Tony La Russa (who called him to wish him luck). On Monday against the Brewers, Michael Cuddyer batted fifth, followed by Todd Helton and Wilin Rosario. That could change, especially if Rosario keeps up the power he displayed while hitting 28 home runs last season.
Two of this year's biggest challenges will be managing the playing time of Helton, 39, who's in the last year of his contract and likely the final year of his career, and shortstop and cleanup man Troy Tulowitzki, who played only 47 games last year due to a left groin injury that required surgery, but is considered by many to be the game's best two-way player at his position when healthy.
Weiss is the sixth manager in Rockies history and is the first former Colorado player to manage the club.
Ottavino at his first Rox opener as a player
MILWAUKEE -- Two men wearing black and purple uniforms for Monday's Opening Day game against the Brewers were at Shea Stadium when the Rockies played their inaugural game on April 5, 1993, at Shea Stadium.
One is an easy answer: New hitting coach Dante Bichette participated in the 3-0 loss to the Mets.
It's Rockies right-handed relief pitcher Adam Ottavino, who grew up a Yankees fan in New York. However, his mother, Eve, was a Mets fan. His grandfather took the 7-year-old future Rockie to the game.
"I went to a lot of Opening Days when I was a kid, and I actually went to the Mets' opener against the Rockies in their first-ever game," Ottavino said. "I just remember that there was a homer hit and the Mets won the game."
Bobby Bonilla hit the homer off David Nied in the fifth inning.
Monday was Ottavino's first Opening Day in a Major League uniform. After making five appearances for the Cardinals in 2010, he joined the Rockies last season and established himself as a middle reliever by going 5-1 with a 4.56 ERA in 53 games.
"It was good for me -- I got a lot more experience throwing multiple innings that way," Ottavino said.
Fowler keeping cool on Opening Day vs. Crew
MILWAUKEE -- Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler hit .300 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs last season -- all career highs. He followed that up with a strong Spring Training, posting a .396 batting average.
In this game, such a run of success can make a player overly eager. But Fowler, even on Opening Day -- when everyone is expected to be a little nervous -- is as cool as they come. He hopes his even-keeled approach helps in a year when it's only natural to dream of an All-Star Game appearance and a Rawlings Gold Glove Award..
"I can't control any of that stuff," said Fowler, who led off for the Rockies in the opener against the Brewers and will bat second on days Eric Young Jr. is in the lineup. "Like I say all the time, 'God's got a plan for me, and I've got to trust in that.' Just do what you can on and off the field, and the rest is out of your hands."
After a difficult beginning last year, which followed a worse Spring Training, Fowler stopped tinkering with his swing. The mental freedom allowed him to bring his average to .300 by the All-Star break, and he stayed at that level the rest of the year.
Fowler's natural uppercut puts more balls in the air than is often recommended of a leadoff hitter, but it also gives him the gap power that led to 42 extra-base hits last year. Fowler says he is "hitting more athletically." But don't ask him to explain it or teach it to others.
"My swing is perfect for me," he said. "I tell my wife all the time that it's hard for me to teach people stuff because I do stuff differently from everybody else."
Rutledge expects smooth transition to second
MILWAUKEE -- Josh Rutledge's Major League debut occurred on July 13, 2012, and he had to have plenty of help to make it happen. The Rockies called him up from Double-A Tulsa, but his equipment bag didn't make it to Denver with him and he had to borrow equipment to start at shortstop and go 2-for-2 against the Phillies.
On Monday, everything was in place for Opening Day against the Brewers. Rutledge did well enough last season for the Rockies to move him to second base and pair him with star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. There was no scavenger hunt for a glove, bat or spikes, but it was still a special occasion.
"There are nerves no matter where you're playing or what's going on, especially the first game," said Rutledge, who hit .274 with eight homers in 73 games last year. "We had a long spring, and everybody is ready to get things going."
With Tulowitzki signed to a long-term deal, the Rockies drafted Rutledge out of Alabama in the third round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft believing he had the athletic ability to change positions. This spring, manager Walt Weiss said the ease at which he made the transition to second surprised him.
"I've played the middle of the diamond pretty much my whole life over at short," Rutledge said. "That made it a lot easier. If I'd come from a different position, that may have made it harder."
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.