5/25/2013 2:14 A.M. ET
Rutledge to hone second-base skills in Minors
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- The hot hitting of DJ LeMahieu -- .412 in seven games since being recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs -- allowed the Rockies to send Josh Rutledge to Colorado Springs to continue the transition to second base.
Rutledge showed promise last year after being called up from Double-A Tulsa and playing shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki's absence. Rutledge slumped during the Rockies' last homestand and was hitting .242 at the time of the demotion. But some fielding issues, many centering on footwork, cropped up in his recent Major League games. He can address it all in Colorado Springs.
"We asked a lot of him, to learn a new position at the Major League level," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "With DJ swinging the bat like he has all year, including down in the Springs, he created some opportunities for himself.
"Josh wasn't going to be playing all the time up here. It's important for his development to be getting consistent at-bats and time at second base. Josh is going to be a big part of this club. I told him I thought he handled the transition very well. It's a tougher transition than people think. The angles are different. The pivot is different."
LeMahieu has had starts in the second, sixth, seventh and eighth spots in the batting order. Against Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum, Weiss put rookie Nolan Arenado in the No. 2 spot for the first time and placed LeMahieu eighth.
Demoting Rutledge meant the Rockies would go with five outfielders and four infielders for the first time this season. Weiss said Charlie Blackmon's arm and defense are valuable late in games. Eric Young Jr., who has been a part-time starter but is slumping offensively and struggling at times defensively, figures to be an offensive option as either a pinch-hitter or baserunner. Weiss also said it's possible Young will play some second base as a reserve.
Betancourt's groin injury 'a little bit better'
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt was unsure about how his right groin responded to two days of rest, after he was removed from a game Tuesday night after two pitches. He reported feeling fine while throwing a bullpen session before Friday night's game against the Giants, but it was unclear if he would be available.
"I feel a little bit better, but I really can't tell you how much different I feel because I was off Wednesday and yesterday I was off and I tried not to do anything," said Betancourt, 10-for-10 on save opportunities and carrying a 1.56 ERA in 19 appearances. "I did some stretching, treatment and exercises. I feel kind of weird, but I think I can go through that.
"Hopefully, I'll be fine."
Manager Walt Weiss said if Betancourt can't go, the closer would be lefty Rex Brothers, who entered Friday with 18 scoreless innings over 19 games and earned the save in Wednesday's 4-1 home victory over the D-backs. Weiss said he doesn't think Betancourt's injury, which is inflammation around scar tissue from a 2009 surgery, will require a trip to the 15-day disabled list.
Cuddyer returns with big game vs. Giants
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer didn't believe he was gone long enough to lose his swing.
Cuddyer, activated Friday after missing 14 games with a bulging disk in his neck, doubled and homered in four at-bats and scored two runs in a 5-0 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park.
The double with two out in the first and his eighth homer of the season both came off losing pitcher Tim Lincecum. Cuddyer increased his RBI total to 26, fourth most on the team.
"You never know with baseball; you feel good and sometimes you don't get good results," Cuddyer said. "I felt good, my neck felt great, I felt comfortable in the box.
"I didn't feel like I missed much time. In the grand scheme of things, I really didn't miss too much time."
It was the third time in his career that Cuddyer has dealt with the neck issue. The first two times, in 2004 and 2011, he didn't even go on the disabled list, mainly because he was in the American League with the Twins and they could afford to carry him until he healed.
It's not that Cuddyer didn't hurt. He bordered on immobile in his first days on the DL. Only after an epidural shot did the pain begin to subside. Once the pain was gone, two games in extended spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., were all he needed.
"Because I've had this before, it's not like I've pulled a hamstring or something where I'm not confident in it," Cuddyer said. "Because I know what it feels like and what it feels like to get back, from the first moment I stepped back in the box on Tuesday, I was confident to be myself."
Cuddyer believes he is past the bout with the neck issue. He suffered the original injury in 2004 and it flared in 2011. This year's bout with pain stemmed from a play during an early May series against the Rays, when he slid into second trying to break up a double play. He's not exactly sure if it was the result of contact. Then a few days later, he felt it while running down the first-base line in a game against the Yankees.
"You're not ever 100 percent sure, but I'm confident it's not going to be a recurring thing," Cuddyer said.
Francis' rehab progresses with bullpen session
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis, who suffered a left groin strain May 14 while pitching against the Cubs, threw a bullpen session of about 25 pitches Friday. His next steps are a trip to the team's training center in Scottsdale, Ariz., for extended spring training, then he'll return to Denver for an evaluation to discuss further rehab plans.
Francis said his condition is improving, but he isn't pushing it. As was the case at the time of the injury -- he suffered the injury in the second of his six innings in the victory over the Cubs -- it isn't a problem when he pitches. His stretching exercises have been gentle ones, and he has limited his running to jogging. He'll have his big test with fielding practice -- moving off the mound for bunts, backing up bases and covering first base.
"So far I've done all the stuff I normally do, but when it comes to the groin, I'm gentle with it," Francis said.
Rosario understands Rockies' desire to rest him
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario always believes he has energy, but he appreciated the rest he received Wednesday and Thursday.
Rosario, who didn't handle two blockable balls in Monday night's 5-1 loss to the D-backs but delivered the winning single in the 10th inning of a 5-4 victory Tuesday, was back in the lineup Friday against the Giants.
Balancing strong offense -- .284, nine homers, 27 RBIs in 38 games -- with his developing defense is a continuing story for Rosario, who said he hasn't felt fatigued but figures manager Walt Weiss and the coaches will be proactive about resting him if they see something he doesn't.
"I like to play, but we are human and we get tired," Rosario said. "Maybe we don't feel it now but maybe later in the season we'll start feeling it. So the skipper knows what he's doing. Plus everybody that we have plays very well and they like to play. We aren't afraid to rest guys."
Weiss said, "Catching is tough. Those guys get beat up a lot back there. I try to keep Wilin from catching day games after night games, even though he has done it a couple of times. It's a demanding position. I think he's done real well handling the rigors."
Rosario said he is spending extra time before games doing exercises and receiving massage and heat therapy on leg muscles. Some of his struggles last season, when he had 21 passed balls and 13 errors, were due to a lack of flexibility, the Rockies theorized. A knee surgery that Rosario underwent in the Minors cost him some elasticity in his legs, but that situation is one he and the club hope to improve.
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.