4/7/2013 9:27 P.M. ET
Starting pitching has surprised for Rockies
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
DENVER -- Perhaps the biggest surprise for the first-place Rockies five games into the season is the quality starting pitching they have boasted.
Colorado has a 3.15 ERA, with its starters posting a 3.10 ERA after one trip through the rotation. They saw four quality starts, with only Jorge De La Rosa struggling. He allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings in a game the Rockies went on to win 8-4.
"They've all given us a chance to win, and then some," manager Walt Weiss said. "They're doing the things that we talked about this spring. Guys are less concerned about east and west, and are really thinking about pitching to the bottom of the zone and putting the ball on the ground. These guys are buying in that when you're at the bottom of the zone and you stay in decent counts, you can be very effective."
The pitchers have a longer leash than the Rockies closed the season with, and deeper pitch counts than they've typically enjoyed early in the season, with several starters getting into the 90s during their first start. Jeff Francis and Juan Nicasio both reached 97 pitches, while Jhoulys Chacin went to 94, Jon Garland 75 and De La Rosa 77.
"We've got four of our starters who missed a lot of time last year," Weiss said of Chacin, De La Rosa, Nicasio and Garland, who each missed the majority of 2012 to injury, with Garland not throwing a pitch. "I certainly am aware of [pitch counts], and it's a factor. But I haven't had to push that button early. Some of these guys have been in the 90s, and I think that's a good place to be. Especially for the guys that had some issues last year physically."
Sore wrist keeps Cuddyer out of Sunday's lineup
DENVER -- Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer was sporting a wrapped left wrist in the clubhouse Sunday morning after making a diving attempt at catching a sinking Jedd Gyorko liner in the eighth inning of Saturday night's game. The ball ended up going for a run-scoring double to bring the Padres within three, as they ultimately fell, 6-3, to Colorado.
Cuddyer, whose two-run homer in the seventh padded the Rockies lead, stayed in the game until the end, but he felt the impact a little more Sunday morning, prompting manager Walt Weiss to give him a day out of the starting lineup.
"It's precautionary," Cuddyer said. "It's sore, but I should be all right. The soreness and stiffness came in [Sunday morning], but we've done treatment for the last hour or two, so I should be all right. I should be available at the end if they need me."
Cuddyer is hitting .450 (9-for-20) through the season's first five games, with two home runs and seven RBIs. Weiss said he'd gone back and forth about giving the right fielder a rest Sunday, but after rolling his wrist and coming in sore, the decision was easy.
"It was one of those things where we had to wait and see in the morning," Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said. "We had the doc evaluate him. We'll keep an eye on him for a day or so. He's a little stiff and has soreness in the joint line, on the tendon. No discoloration or anything. It's just a sore wrist. "
With Tulo resting, Rosario steps in as cleanup hitter
DENVER -- For the Sunday series finale at the end of Opening Week, manager Walt Weiss made four changes to his regular lineup, resting Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer and rookie second baseman Josh Rutledge.
With Tulo out of the lineup for the first time this season, Rosario stepped in to the cleanup spot, anchoring a lineup that has hit 11 home runs (tied with the Reds and Blue Jays for the most in the Majors) and posted a best-in-baseball .894 team OPS heading into Sunday.
"Long-term, he's a middle of the lineup guy," Weiss said of Rosario. "I have no problem putting him in the cleanup spot."
Rosario was unfazed by the move, having started 30 games at cleanup in an injury-riddled lineup during his rookie campaign in 2012, when he led all National League rookies and all Rockies with 28 home runs.
"If I hit seven, eight, or four-hole hitter, I don't see a lot of difference," Rosario said. "Whatever spot I hit in the lineup, they're going to pitch me the same."
Rosario is even more comfortable at the plate as he starts his sophomore season, taking a more mature approach to self-evaluation and recognizing the patterns that cost him a little in 2012.
"I feel different from last year," Rosario said. "I can recognize when I swing at those bad pitches in the dirt. If I keep swinging at them, they'll keep throwing them to me."
Eric Young Jr. made his second start of the season, with Cuddyer nursing a sore wrist after rolling it making a diving attempt at a catch in right field late in Saturday's game. EY took the leadoff spot, with Dexter Fowler dropping to the two-hole for the game.
"Two guys at the top that run like they do puts a lot of pressure on the defense," Weiss said of the Young-Fowler tandem. "Those guys are always looking to take extra bases, looking to steal bases. It makes the defense uncomfortable. It makes the pitcher uncomfortable because he's got to control the running game. It's a nice element at the top of the lineup."
Other changes include Jordan Pacheco getting his second start at first base, Reid Brignac spelling Rutledge at second, and Jonathan Herrera making his first start at short as Tulo sits for the first time this season.
"I try to look at Tulo's situation in about a two-or-three-week window and try to gauge what will be the best spot for him to get a day," Weiss explained. "Matchups can play into it, but it didn't today. The fact that we're going out on the west coast and we got six out there, as opposed to him playing today and then trying to grind out six on the west coast, this just made sense, to get him a day before we head west."
The four bench players starting Sunday are hitting a combined .353 (6-for-17) on the season, helping round out an offense that has pleased Weiss with its patient approach and versatility in the first week out of the gate.
"It's been a good balance for us offensively," Weiss said. "We've shown some power. We've made some pitchers work. I like the balance of our offense. We didn't bang the ball [Saturday] night, but we had some tough pitches with runners in scoring position and drove some runs in that way, without barreling up the ball. There's going to have to be some versatility to our offense for us to score runs. We can't just hit the ball in the seats every night, it's not possible."
• Drew Pomeranz pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball in his first start for Triple-A Colorado Springs on Saturday. The left-hander allowed four hits, while striking out eight and walking one at home against Reno. He was at 97 pitches (62 for strikes) when he was lifted for reliever Manny Corpas in the sixth.
Pomeranz made 22 starts for the Rockies in 2012, going 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA.
The Sky Sox went on to win the game, 3-2, in 15 innings. Third baseman Nolan Arenado was 3-for-6 with a double, lowering his average to .538.
• The Rockies have won their first two series of the season for the first time since 1995. It's also their first 5-1 start since '95, which ended in a Wild Card playoff berth for the three-year-old Rockies.
• Dexter Fowler became the Rockies' all-time leader in center field starts Sunday, surpassing Ellis Burks with his 454th game. Fowler knocked his fourth homer in his first at-bat and stole his first base of the season in his second trip to the plate. He has hit and scored in each of the first six games of the season.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.