8/21/2013 12:40 A.M. ET
Rockies struggling against new pitchers
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Beginners are lucky more often than not against the Rockies.
The Rockies are 9-14 this season when facing a starter for the first time, and those pitchers have a 3.87 ERA with 126 strikeouts and 41 walks. The pitcher has thrown six or more innings and given up two or fewer runs 11 times. Included in that was a 13-strikeout, one-hitter by the Cardinals' Shelby Miller on May 10, and eight scoreless innings from the Braves' Tyler Skaggs on July 5.
The latest was Monday night, when the Phillies' Ethan Martin held the Rockies to two runs on four hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings, with six strikeouts, in a 5-4 Phillies victory.
Some patterns have emerged. Even if the pitcher is a hard thrower, he is often mixing more and trying to entice hitters to chase. It's an indication that teams go in expecting the Rockies to swing aggressively, and at times hitters don't adjust quickly enough to succeed.
"When you're facing somebody you've never seen before and you're an aggressive team, the pitcher gets an advantage," said Rockies veteran Michael Cuddyer. "I was a glaring example, swinging at the very first pitch I've ever seen from that guy [Martin] -- a slider that I tapped right back to him. That wasn't smart. I was mad at myself."
It's not that an aggressive approach is necessarily bad.
"That's how we succeed against guys we've seen before, and guys that throw strikes, but it's tough to do that against a pitcher you've never seen before," Cuddyer said. "We should address it. Against guys we've never seen before, we need to see a couple more pitches. It just could be your first at-bat, really. In that at-bat, you can get a good grasp of what a guy's got and what a guy's featuring."
Martin earned five of his first six outs via strikeouts and was fine until the seventh. But Troy Tulowitzki homered to open that inning, and Wilin Rosario two-run double three hitters later drove Martin from the game.
Tulowitzki acknowledged that the Rockies could stand to be more efficient, such as hitters sharing information after their at-bats, but cautioned against going overboard in trying to figure out the opposing pitcher.
"That's thinking too far, too much about hitting -- you go up there, get a good pitch and try to hit it," he said. "If you don't, hopefully you take it. But if you start thinking, 'I've got to change my approach,' that's when guys start to get into trouble."
Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette said adjusting to a new pitcher is merely one of many hitting challenges.
"You can over-think the situation, but it depends on how you feel, too," Bichette said. "To me, I feel 20 percent of the time you've got no chance, don't have it that day, and 20 percent of the time it doesn't matter what they throw -- you're going to hit it hard. It's that 60 percent of the time where you're in between. It separates the men from the boys. You've got to be smart and understand what they're doing to you."
Philadelphia's Tuesday starter, Tyler Cloyd, faced the Rockies on Sept. 9, 2012, allowing four runs in four innings.
Helton approaching milestones as he hits 40
PHILADELPHIA -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton arrived at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday to see a large, colorful banner picturing his two daughters wishing him a happy 40th birthday.
Helton's birthdays have almost always been happy on the field, as he entered 19-for-50 (.380) with five home runs, five doubles and 12 RBIs on Aug. 20. Now, most of his hits go down in history. He entered Tuesday night's game tied with Hall of Famer Robin Yount for 17th on the all-time doubles list with 583 -- two behind Rafael Palmeiro. He also was seven hits shy of 2,500.
"I don't know how many more there are going to be," said Helton, who brought his family along to Philadelphia and has spent the last two mornings touring the historic sites in the city. "When you see the end, it makes it a little easier to go out and give a little bit more."
When Helton debuted with the Rockies in 1997, his locker was positioned beside veteran shortstop Walt Weiss, who now manages the Rockies. Weiss said he takes time to marvel at Helton's accomplishments, even during games.
"Whenever he hits a double, hits a home run or drives a run in, he's passing one of the all-time greats," Weiss said. That speaks for itself."
Helton, a .317 career hitter who entered Tuesday batting .254 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs this season, counts being healthy enough to play at this point as an accomplishment. Last year he was already done by this time because of right hip labrum surgery. Several seasons have been affected or shortened by back injuries.
Helton spent the early part of the year sharing first base duties with Jordan Pacheco, but has started most of the games the last two months, including Tuesday, when he hit fifth and played first base.
"In some regards it is cool, most people don't play this long," Helton said. "But when you look at it, it's a young man's game.
"If I can finish the season, that's a goal. It would obviously be better winning the World Series, but it would be a small moral victory."
Helton went 0-for-4 in Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Phillies, but did make a nice play when he tagged out Jimmy Rollins to get the third out in the seventh with two men on base.
Replays showed he missed the tag, but Rollins nor interim manager Ryne Sandberg argued the call.
Torrealba thankful to be out only seven days
PHILADELPHIA -- Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba insisted he was OK after being jarred by a foul ball to the mask during Sunday's game at Baltimore. He passed a postgame concussion test and didn't see any reason he couldn't continue to be available.
But he woke up on Monday with discomfort, facial swelling and light sensitivity, and became the first Rockies player to be placed on the seven-day disabled list -- designed for head trauma situations -- before Monday's game. Torrealba reported feeling better on Tuesday but had full understanding and appreciation for the ability to go on a seven-day DL. It gives him time to recover and, hopefully, be free of symptoms before returning to normal workouts, yet not be inactive for 15 days.
"I feel useless, that's what I feel -- I can do nothing," Torrealba said, joking, before explaining his symptoms. "I never really had a headache, but I had pressure in my forehead. I was sensitive to light. Actually, Sunday night, I was OK. I felt really good after the game. I didn't feel much. I was on the bus, talked on the phone, looked at the view.
"But I had a hard time falling to sleep Sunday night, and when I got up I was sensitive to the light."
Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said even if there wasn't a seven-day DL, he would not have cleared Torrealba to play on Monday and would have kept a watch on him beyond that. Dugger said they were able to have Torrealba rest, but said he has the same problem that parents and caretakers of youth athletes have -- keeping stimulation to a minimum.
"He sat in the clubhouse and in the dugout, but we just wanted him to lay low," Dugger said. "The hardest thing is all these guys are hooked to their electronic devices -- phones, computer, TV. I tried. I suggested it highly. It's not necessarily physical exertion but the cognitive aspect of thinking, reading, that causes problems. It's like with kids -- no homework, no reading. Relaxing doesn't mean go home and read a book. It means go in a dark room and sleep."
The oddity of Torrealba's injury was his mask -- the old-school type that fits over a batting helmet, rather than the hockey-style mask-helmet combination -- didn't fly off his helmet after the tipped 94-mph fastball crashed against the forehead portion of the mask. He will not switch styles, but since he and Dugger believe either the padding was worn or the mask was too tight, he'll get a new one.
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.