04/14/2013 2:48 PM ET
Rockies look to bring road success back home
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- Now is time for the Rockies to realize their goal of becoming the "Blake Street Bullies."
Monday begins a 10-game homestand during which they will meet the Mets, D-backs and Braves. Decent play on the road has a team with a strong homefield tradition coming home with a winning record. For a franchise that has had one winning road season in its previous 20, dominance at Coors Field is a necessity.
Colorado swept the Padres in its only previous homestand this year.
"We've had some success on the road early, but for us to win a division we have to dominate at home," Rockies first-year manager Walt Weiss said. "We have an opportunity now to make somewhat of a statement. It's always important, particularly for us to play well at home."
Center fielder Dexter Fowler said, "Anytime you have a long homestand, you want a bunch of wins -- at least 70 percent of the games. If we do that, we'll be all right."
Last year's Rockies learned how damaging it is not to capitalize on schedule gifts. They entered the second homestand of the year with a 9-9 mark. But for much of the nine-game homestand, the starting pitching was ineffective and didn't give many innings. The Rockies went 3-6 and were well on their way to a club record 98 losses.
"I don't even remember that far, and that's a good thing," veteran relief pitcher Matt Belisle said. "Anything in regard to last year, what we've done in the past, I've told people, we have a new team, a new attitude, a new skipper. It feels different. So I look at what we've done in the past weeks and what's ahead, instead of last year."
The Rockies went into Sunday leading the Majors in road home runs and the National League in road runs. The logical belief is the lineup should be able to produce even more at home. Not even expected cold, possibly nasty, weather should dampen the enthusiasm to hit.
"We always enjoy playing in our home, in front of our fans," left fielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "It'll be cold, but it's cold for both teams. We should be fine if we focus on what we need to do to win games."
An underrated factor in the Rockies' history of strength at home has been the bullpen. Any year that the Rockies contend, the bullpen is among the most effective in the game. The early stats this season leave something to be desired, outside of closer Rafael Betancourt (four saves, no earned runs in five appearances through Saturday) and lefty setup man Rex Brothers (1.26 ERA, eight strikeouts in his 6 1/3 innings pitched through Saturday).
Generally, the Rockies have leaned on their bullpen more at home than on the road. But with a rotation that has had just two starts of fewer than five innings and has generally been effective, maybe Weiss can use the bullpen a little less than past teams have.
"Hopefully, we don't have to use them a whole lot because that means our starters are going deeper into games, but it's important that those guys get consistent work so they stay sharp," Weiss said. "It's that balance of getting them that consistent work, but not overusing them."
Weiss gives CarGo breather vs. Padres
SAN DIEGO -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss held left fielder Carlos Gonzalez out of the starting lineup for the first time this season on Sunday.
It's not as if Gonzalez is showing fatigue. He went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in Saturday night's 9-5 victory over the Padres and was 5-for-17 (.294) with a homer, two doubles, two walks and two steals through five games of the current road trip. But Sunday was the third of the Rockies' scheduled 20 games in 20 days and seemed to be a good resting point.
"This is a day game after a night game," Weiss said. "Not that right-left matters much to CarGo, but there's a lefty on the mound [the Padres' Clayton Richard], so it made sense to me."
Fowler continues torrid start to season
SAN DIEGO -- Sometimes production trumps quantity.
Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler entered Sunday's finale of three games with the Padres just 4-for-18 (.222) on the current road trip. However, two of those hits were home runs and another was a double, and he drove in four runs and scored three.
With six homers already, Fowler is seen as a hot player even though the road trip stats don't concur. Fowler is sticking with a philosophy of not pressuring himself, whether he's hot or cold.
"It's not in your control at all," Fowler said. "Once you start trying to put things in your control, that's when you start messing up."
Rockies confident in Belisle despite struggles in 'pen
SAN DIEGO -- Righty Matt Belisle has been slightly less effective than normal since becoming a part of the Rockies' bullpen in 2009.
Belisle has given up three runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings over his last two appearances and entered Sunday 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA. Most of the damage has been done by lefty hitters (.455), and three of his six first batters have reached. However, Belisle, who made a franchise three-season record of 230 appearances in 2010-12, has a track record, and therefore the confidence of manager Walt Weiss.
"He's a great competitor, a guy I like in the game at tough parts of the game because I know how well he competes," Weiss said. "You're not going to have your 'A' game every time out there, but I take my chances with Matty every day."
Nelson settling in nicely at third base
SAN DIEGO -- Third baseman Chris Nelson returned to the lineup Sunday after a day off. He is coming off his best defensive night of the season Friday, in a 7-5 Rockies victory that included one sliding stop and two highlight-reel plays.
Nelson went to his right and made a long throw across the diamond to retire Jedd Gyorko, with first baseman Todd Helton using nifty footwork at the receiving end. In the seventh, Nelson snatched a Jesus Guzman hard one-hopper, complete with a matador's flourish at the end, and retired him to lead off the seventh. The play saved runs, since the Padres scored twice in that inning to take a lead.
From his 2010 Rockies debut through last offseason, Nelson was a utility infielder. After becoming the starting third baseman to start last season, Nelson has found that playing one position simplifies his preparation.
"I know I'm in the National League and I need to know how to play a couple of different positions, but just now my focus is definitely on one goal," Nelson said. "It's definitely better than what I was doing before."
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.