7/23/2013 10:09 P.M. ET
Bichette preaches patience amid bats' struggles
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
DENVER -- The Rockies hired Dante Bichette as hitting coach because he knows the wild swings, from runs in bunches to cold streaks, the franchise has experienced over 20 years. Some of it is due to the differences between hitting at altitude and on the road, and some of it is the general ups and downs of a season.
A 3-1 loss to the Marlins on Monday, when the Rockies were shut down by Tom Koehler for seven innings, left the team's OPS for July at .617. Only the Athletics' .609 clip was lower among Major League teams entering Tuesday's game against Miami.
The Rockies' 51 July runs were second fewest to the Marlins' 50. Hitting with runners on base and runners in scoring position have also been a struggle for an offense that at one point dealt with the lengthy, injury-related absences of center fielder Dexter Fowler and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Now everyone is back, but the consistency isn't.
At a time when fans want to scream, Bichette goes deeper into calm mode. Bichette recalls his career, when he and the Rockies came under constant scrutiny for hitting much better at Coors Field than on the road, and some players seemed to be affected by the numbers and the criticism that went with it.
"You panic on guys here in the big leagues and you'll lose their trust, so that's not me, that's not my style," Bichette said. "I'll go down with the ship if that's the case, no big deal. I've been here. Nobody's been here more than I have. I get it.
"I don't need to kick big leaguers in the butt. That's why they're big leaguers. They've learned to do it themselves and people just don't get it. If they don't get it, that's not my problem. I just need to make sure we get ready for the game."
Players say it's a matter of fighting the urge of trying to do too much. Carlos Gonzalez was kicking himself for having rough at-bats with runners on base, then having his only hit -- a double in the eighth -- with no one on base.
"You just have to have each at-bat the same, not try to do too much," Gonzalez said.
An issue that arose Monday was facing a pitcher the Rockies had never seen in Koehler. They never faced Tuesday starter Jose Fernandez, the Marlins' 20-year-old All-Star, either.
Manager Walt Weiss hit the same theme of simplicity as Gonalez.
"The important thing is to simplify the at-bat," said Weiss, who has not tinkered with his batting order. "Don't get too caught up in his repertoire or what he might throw you. I think you simplify it by trying to get a fastball, because he likes his fastball. Get a fastball for a strike and put a good swing on it."
Bichette said he has to be a voice of reason to young hitters, especially rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado, who entered Tuesday hitting .240 as he struggles to adjust to big league pitching. But Bichette believes patience will allow the talent of the offense to shine.
"We've got our big boys starting to swing the bat again," Bichette said. "I like where we're at. Our young guys are learning and we've got the middle of that lineup having big years and swinging the bat well. Just stay healthy and keep swinging."
Still tired from surgery, Betancourt returns to Coors
DENVER -- Much of closer Rafael Betancourt's excitement coming out of the All-Star break was based on the fact that the Rockies were finally healthy after dealing with first-half injuries to many key players, including himself.
But the expected run of good health ended before it started. Betancourt underwent an emergency appendectomy and landed on the 15-day disabled list Friday night before the Rockies' game against the Cubs, the first game after the break.
Still sore and tired, Betancourt returned to the Rockies' clubhouse Tuesday to visit with teammates and do some light stretching exercises.
"It's weird. I always say it's kind of hard to have everyone healthy because it's a long season," said Betancourt, who missed 25 games in June with a right groin strain. "The last time I was on the DL was in 2009, before I got traded here. You're always going through pains, but never something like this.
"It's fine. I'm happy to be here today and spend time with guys. But now I'm still sore. As much as I love baseball and love to work and play the game, right now my mind is like, I need to rest. I don't want to do anything right now."
Betancourt said he was thankful for his 10-year-old son, Rafael. The younger Rafael is often in uniform before games, throwing with his dad and helping out during batting practice. His son said he went to the trainers to have his wrists taped -- what youngster doesn't want to have his wrist taped to look like a big leaguer -- and made it a point to mention his dad had vomited a couple of times the previous night.
Trainers checked Betancourt and sent him to the team internist, who called for surgery immediately.
"Knowing me, I don't know if it's good or bad, but I probably would have gone out and taken normal BP," Betancourt said. "This is the first time having something like this during the season, and it's not fun. Especially for me, I like to be there, after missing almost three weeks with my groin.
"With the situation our team is in right now, I don't want to be missing a game, but it's something out of my hands. All I can do is rest, try to come back stronger."
Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said most of Betancourt's soreness is at the surgical portholes and not internal, and he'll feel better when his appetite returns in the next day or two. Dugger told Betancourt not to come to the park Wednesday, and if he's better Thursday, he can do light treadmill work or exercise under water.
Weiss thinks confidence is Pomeranz's problem
DENVER -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss said the problem with left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who lasted 4 1/3 innings and didn't establish a true relationship with the strike zone in Monday night's 3-1 loss to the Marlins, is with the mind more than the arm.
"Ultimately, he's got to go out there with confidence," Weiss said. "Having some success will go a long way toward that. You have to throw quality strikes up here. You don't get away with it when you don't.
"That's been Drew's biggest struggle, throwing quality strikes. He's thrown some balls in the middle of the plate. You don't get away with that very often up here. It's a matter of confidence, going out there and having some success and building on that."
Pomeranz (0-4, 8.10) was 8-1 at Triple-A Colorado Springs before making his 2013 Rockies debut. He struggled for three starts, was sent to Double-A Tulsa for a start in which he experimented with a slider, then returned for Monday's game. Pomeranz's lack of confidence shows when he misses early to the batter, then throws a pitch high and over the middle to try to work back into the count. The Rockies want him to be aggressive low in the zone.
It's not clear what the Rockies' next move with him will be.
"You have to go out and perform," Weiss said. "You tend to have some patience with guys that have tremendous ability. That patience, most times, will end up paying off. We're seen it with [Juan] Nicasio a little bit this year. Hopefully see the same with Drew."
Rox believe they can win West with current roster
DENVER -- The Rockies remain close to the vest with their plans in regard to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
They could use a starting pitcher, or could shore up the bullpen. Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations, reiterated club owner Dick Monfort's assertion that the club will not trade prospects for players in the last year of their contracts. The Rangers did just that in a deal with the Cubs for Matt Garza.
The Rockies have had strong work from four of their five starters recently, but offensive inconsistency has been an issue. They entered Tuesday night's game with the Marlins trailing the National League West-leading Dodgers by four games.
Geivett said the Rockies are always looking to improve, but that the roster is good enough as constructed to compete.
"We have been kind of off and on with all our injuries," Geivett said. "We thought we were finally healthy and all together, and then before we played a game after the break, [closer Rafael Betancourt] undergoes appendicitis surgery. Hopefully, with him coming back and the addition of Roy [Oswalt], as well, we definitely feel like we can win this division.
"And I feel like when we are firing on all cylinders that we are a very good club, we are a very talented team. It's up to us now to start getting it together and get the job done."
Unless a move is made, Geivett and the Rockies will be counting on help from within.
Oswalt, who signed in May and debuted with the Rockies on June 20, struggled in his first three starts, then suffered his injury in the second inning of his fourth start on July 7. He has increased his physical activity and could throw his first bullpen session this weekend in Atlanta, with a goal toward returning quickly.
"He went through the first few outings, where he looked like he was getting his feet down under him," Geivett said. "And then those first couple of innings in Arizona, where he looked like he was back, his stuff was sharp and everything was back before the unfortunate injury.
"But luckily it wasn't his arm or anything like that. So we are hoping he can get back and we can plug him right in. He's a guy with experience who has pitched in the postseason and he's a big part of where we are at."
The Rockies also added veteran outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady from the Royals. Nady has hit .254 in 17 games since joining Triple-A Colorado Springs, and could be a right-handed boost to a bench that has not been much of a threat this season.
"The reports are solid right now," Geivett said. "He's been swinging the bat pretty well and he's been moving in the outfield all right. He's been playing first base, as well. I think the right-handed bat is definitely something that we have interest in."
Righty Collin McHugh, obtained in a trade with the Mets earlier this season for outfielder Eric Young, Jr., has gone 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts at Colorado Springs. With lefty Drew Pomeranz struggling at the back of the Rockies' rotation, McHugh could be an option.
"He has pitched well his last few outings and he is definitely a guy that interests us," Geivett said.
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.