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Cuddyer’s double propels Rox to series win over Crew

April 22, 2012 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Bruised toe and all, Michael Cuddyer just keeps on hitting.

With two on and one out in the eighth on Sunday, Cuddyer ripped the first pitch he saw from Milwaukee reliever Francisco Rodriguez into the gap. The result was a go-ahead double, as Cuddyer drove in a pair of runs and set up the Rockies for a 4-1 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park.

Every time a big late-game situation comes up this season, Cuddyer seems to be there to deliver for the Rockies. He had a game-winning pinch-hit on Friday before coming through again Sunday.

The veteran slugger seems to enjoy such opportunities, as well.

“Who doesn’t?” Cuddyer said. “A man in scoring position and a one-run game, the worst that can happen is you fail. And that happens a lot. So yeah, you’ve got to relish those opportunities.”

Cuddyer collected his team-leading 10th and 11th RBIs of the season. He also leads the Rockies in hits (19), doubles (8) and extra-base hits (11).

Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Cuddyer’s big hits this weekend came against a pair of the best relievers in the game, in John Axford and Rodriguez. With every Cuddyer at-bat, the Rockies’ biggest offseason acquisition looks better and better.

“The biggest thing is, every time he steps up to the plate, I think 24 other guys and the coaching staff have confidence that he’s going to get a big hit,” Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie said.

Along with everything he’s done at the plate so far this season, Cuddyer can play a pretty good right field as well. He showed that Sunday not long after he delivered the game’s big blow.

Cuddyer made a great read on an Aramis Ramirez line drive to right to help snuff out a potential Brewers’ rally in the eighth. Milwaukee had the tying runs on base at the time.

Cuddyer then fired a strike toward second that could have doubled up Rickie Weeks, but Marco Scutaro cut the ball off.

“As I was letting go of the ball I was yelling, ‘Let it go, let it go, let it go,'” Cuddyer said. “But he didn’t. So then Matty [Belisle] was able to make a couple big pitches.”

But as impressive as his eighth-inning heroics were, Cuddyer was quick to share the spotlight.

As he saw it, the pitching was the story of the game.

In his fourth start of the season, Jeremy Guthrie gave the Rockies everything they needed. Coming off a pair of rough home starts, Guthrie had his best outing yet, tossing seven innings and allowing just one run on three hits with three walks with two strikeouts.

“It wasn’t just seven innings, it was seven quality innings,” said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who earned the 800th win of his managerial career. “He had great movement with his two-seam fastball today, great command of his fastballs, period. Two- or four-seam. Which helped to make the breaking ball and the changeup that much more effective.”

A leadoff walk issued to Ryan Braun in the fourth inning led to the Brewers’ only run off Guthrie. First baseman Mat Gamel plated Braun with a two-out single to right field on a 1-1 cutter from Guthrie.

But the run wouldn’t have happened without the help of an unusual stolen base by Braun. Guthrie struck out Aramis Ramirez looking at a 3-2 pitch, and the throw beat Braun to second base, but Scutaro did not tag the runner, apparently thinking the pitch was ball four.

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo matched Guthrie’s solid outing with an impressive one of his own. The right-hander went seven strong innings, giving up just one run on six hits with eight strikeouts against one walk.

In addition to Cuddyer and Guthrie’s big performances, the Rockies got a boost from Belisle in the eighth inning, who retired the heart of the Brewers lineup in order.

Entering the game with two on and no outs, Belisle got Braun to pop out, Ramirez to line out to Cuddyer — on the aforementioned near-double play — and struck out Corey Hart.

It was a big moment for the Rockies en route to the road series win, and an even bigger missed opportunity for the Brewers.

“When you don’t have many opportunities through the game, then you get that one shot at it and you feel like everything is on the line in one inning,” Roenicke said. “Unfortunately, it should be a lot of different innings. It’s tough.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies notes, 4/22

April 22, 2012 Comments off

Young’s speed helping swing games for Rox

By Jordan Schelling / Special to MLB.com

MILWAUKEE — He’s started just one game this season, but Eric Young Jr. has been an integral part of the Rockies’ success.

“He’s a weapon,” manager Jim Tracy said. “And he has embraced the role that he has right now.”

Young has played in 12 of Colorado’s first 14 games, showing an excellent approach at the plate as a pinch-hitter, and even better skills on the basepaths.

In fact, Young’s baserunning was key in the Rockies’ victory on Opening Day, and again Friday when they took the series opener from the Brewers at Miller Park. Both situations involved the outfielder advancing following errors on pickoff attempts and coming around to score go-ahead runs.

Young drew a big leadoff walk Saturday night in the sixth inning, which he followed up by stealing second and scoring a game-tying run on a groundout two batters later. In his fourth-year as a utility player for the Rockies, Young has the freedom to steal whenever he sees the right opportunity to do so.

“He has done just an absolute fantastic job in his role on this ballclub,” Tracy said. “A guy with that kind of speed that’s part of his game, that works on things like that, why would I sit over here and guess when he can stand there and see for himself and know if he can or can’t get a jump and take advantage of the situation?

“You let the light be green. Don’t go through the intersection if it goes to caution or red and cause a bad accident, and get to second. Simple as that. That’s what he does. He’s been absolutely terrific.”

Extra work before season paying off for Colvin

MILWAUKEE — Even his manager has been a little surprised by Tyler Colvin’s hot start for the Rockies.

After a breakout year in 2010, Colvin’s production dropped off last season with the Cubs. However, over his first 10 games and 26 at-bats with the Rockies, Colvin batted .346 with a home run and five RBIs.

Including Sunday against the Brewers, Colvin had started six of the Rockies’ first 15 contests. He batted in the No. 2 hole in the finale against Milwaukee, a spot where his numbers have not been particularly impressive in his career. Colvin has just eight hits in 59 career at-bats batting second, with a slash line of .136/.164/.237.

Even so, it’s a spot where manager Jim Tracy likes his bat.

“He handles the bat extremely well,” Tracy said. “Tyler Colvin’s a guy you can put runners in motion with, and he’s going to get a good swing off and put the ball in play.

“This is also a bat that you have to respect from a depth standpoint and not cheat too much to the point where if there’s multiple runners, he’s going to burn you and drive a ball over your head. He has that capability, he makes those outfielders stay honest that way.”

Colvin also has been a valuable and versatile defender, having already played each of the three outfield positions and first base at least once each. His start Friday night gave right fielder Michael Cuddyer an extra day off to rest his bruised left big toe, while Dexter Fowler got a day off Sunday.

Tracy said the Rockies brought Colvin in two months before Spring Training to get a jump on working with the young outfielder. Colvin came to the Rockies in a trade with the Cubs in December.

“We got very proactive on this one,” Tracy said. “There were some things that we saw on film that we strongly felt had to be cleaned up, that we felt like, ‘This is the big reason why he took a major step backward in 2011, in relation to where he was in 2010.’

“We wanted to get started and give him the opportunity to take the information home with him, knowing he still had eight weeks to go, rather than vice versa.”

Cuddyer made sure to track Humber’s perfecto

MILWAUKEE — Fans across the nation tuned in Saturday evening to catch the end of the White Sox game at Seattle, as Philip Humber completed the 21st perfect game in Major League history.

In the visitor’s clubhouse at Miller Park, the Rockies were watching as well. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer looked on with particular interest, being Humber’s former teammate.

“It’s unbelievable,” Cuddyer said. “What’s even more amazing is the White Sox have 18 no-hitters. It’s incredible.”

Cuddyer played with Humber briefly during the 2008-09 seasons, when Humber pitched 20 2/3 innings in 13 relief appearances for the Twins.

Did Cuddyer ever see perfect-game type stuff out of Humber?

“Well, perfect games, obviously you’ve got to have good stuff, but a lot of things also have to go your way,” Cuddyer said, “So I think [Saturday] was his day. I didn’t see the whole game, but it was definitely his day. That’s for sure.”

While he’s never been involved personally in a perfect game, Cuddyer was in right field for the Twins on May 3 last year, when Francisco Liriano no-hit the White Sox.

Cuddyer reflected on what it’s like being a part of a game like that.

“A lot of excitement,” Cuddyer said. “During that ninth inning, you’re more nervous as a defensive player than the pitcher is, especially in a perfect game. Because if you mess it up, then you messed it up for him. Not you or for the team. It’s nerve-wracking.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pomeranz fades as Rockies fall

April 21, 2012 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Esmil Rogers finally had an off night, and it sparked a big Brewers rally.

Entering the game having tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings over four games, Rogers had been among the Rockies’ most reliable relievers through the first three weeks of the season. But Saturday went a little differently, as he gave up four runs on five hits over 1 1/3 innings in the Rockies’ 9-4 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.

Rogers entered the game with a 3-2 lead in the sixth, but a home run by Ryan Braun — which snapped an 0-for-16 streak for the reigning National League MVP — quickly tied things up.

“We needed a stop; the Ryan Braun home run is the home run, but we needed a stop in the seventh inning,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “And not only did we not get the stop, but the floodgates opened.”

The seventh inning went even worse as Rogers gave up a leadoff single, an RBI triple that gave the Brewers the lead, and an RBI single before leaving the game.

Braun, who admitted he’s been pressing to break out, added an RBI triple off the wall in left-center field. Three batters later, Alex Gonzalez connected for a 3-run homer off Edgmer Escalona to put the game well out of reach.

“Once you start struggling, you start trying too hard,” Braun said. “This game is hard enough as is. Once you start doing that, you get yourself in more trouble. Hopefully, a game like this tonight, collectively, it will get us out of our little funk.”

Tracy pointed to Rogers pitching from behind hitters as a key to the rough outing, as well as getting too much of the plate with a couple of two-strike pitches that turned into hits.

That six-run inning completely changed what was an excellent game early for the Rockies.

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz retired the first 12 batters he faced Saturday, but command issues knocked him out of the game having tossed just five innings and 74 pitches. He opened the fifth with a four-pitch walk, then gave up back-to-back doubles, which put the Brewers ahead, 2-1.

Before getting the first out of the inning, Pomeranz issued a second walk. Through four batters, the lefty had already tossed 17 pitches in the inning, only five of which were strikes. All told, it was a 30-pitch frame for Pomeranz after he needed just 44 to get through four innings.

“It’s just one of those things where I lost my rhythm for a minute and you can’t do that in the middle of a game,” Pomeranz said. “It’s hard to pitch when you lose it for a second there.”

As rough as the fifth inning was, Pomeranz still managed to limit the damage, thanks in part to the Brewers’ small ball strategy. He got the first out on a sacrifice bunt, and a contact play one batter later resulted in an easy out at home. Despite facing eight batters and allowing the first four to reach base, Pomeranz gave up just the two runs.

In his second start of the season, Pomeranz went five innings, allowing two runs on two hits. He also walked three batters and had a career-high six strikeouts.

“I saw a guy with great stuff the first four innings and then he just lost control,” Troy Tulowitzki said. “But those first four innings, I think he needs to build off that and look at the positive.”

Tulowitzki sparked the Rockies offensively, going 2-for-3 on the night with a home run and an RBI single. The latter put Colorado in front 3-2 before the Brewers rallied against the Rockies’ bullpen.

Todd Helton also homered in the game, his third of the year and second in as many nights. Aside from one rough inning, the Rockies played another solid game Saturday in Milwaukee.

In fact, had they gotten another hit in the top of the sixth, the result may have been a lot different.

“We missed an opportunity that could have changed the complexion of the entire game,” Tracy said. “We had taken the lead in the sixth inning and we stole second and third on the 3-1 pitch. A two-out base hit there changes this entire scheme of things. But it just didn’t work out tonight and we’ve got to come back here tomorrow and try to win a series here.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies notes, 4/21

April 21, 2012 Comments off

Scutaro impresses Tracy with unselfishness

By Jordan Schelling / Special to MLB.com

MILWAUKEE — Following the Rockies’ 4-3 victory Friday night over the Brewers, manager Jim Tracy gave high praise to Michael Cuddyer for his “professional” pinch-hit at-bat.During his pregame session with reporters Saturday afternoon, Tracy took the opportunity to point out another at-bat during that same ninth inning.

“One of the things that I saw last night that I think is so significant to championship-caliber type baseball is the Marco Scutaro at-bat in the ninth inning,” Tracy said. “Here’s a pro standing at home plate that’s 0-for-4 and you could tell by the way he went about his business with the at-bat he has no issues whatsoever in being 0-for-5, just so long as Eric Young Jr. is standing at third base with one out.”

And that is exactly what Scutaro delivered, driving a 1-2 curveball from Axford deep to right for the first out of the inning. Young tagged, and scored the go-ahead run from third one batter later on Cuddyer’s pinch-hit single.

Thanks to a pair of pinch hits and an overlooked, but very significant fly out to right, the Rockies got the run they needed to complete Friday night’s victory.

“It’s that type of stuff right there that separates clubs that are playing Major League baseball and those that are playing very significant games in the latter part of the season,” Tracy said. “That was such an unselfish, professional act that we needed to see more of a year ago like we saw a lot of in 2009 and 2010. That is a big time separator in my opinion.”

De La Rosa pitches well in extended spring

MILWAUKEE — In extended Spring Training action Saturday, lefties Jorge De La Rosa and Josh Outman each pitched without any issues.

De La Rosa went four innings as scheduled, tossing just over 60 pitches. Outman did not throw during game action, but pitched two simulated innings.

“From what I understand, everything came out just fine,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “[De La Rosa] used all of his pitches: fastball, slider, change and curveball. Didn’t meet resistance with anything.”

Outman, who is rehabbing an oblique injury suffered earlier this month, is scheduled to pitch an inning in a game early next week.

Both pitchers are moving along just the way the Rockies would like them to. Tracy declined to speculate, though, on when either might see time in Minor League rehab games, especially De La Rosa, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery.

“We’ll eventually get there,” Tracy said. “Do I have a specific time period in mind? The answer is ‘No’.

“There is no rush in this one. We’ll go according to how [De La Rosa] feels and the progression that has been mapped out for him.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cuddyer’s pinch-hit single leads Rockies

April 20, 2012 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — A bruised toe kept Michael Cuddyer out of the lineup Friday night, but it could not prevent him from delivering the game-winning hit in the ninth.

Pinch-hitting for Dexter Fowler with a runner on third and one out, Cuddyer drove a 1-1 curveball from Brewers closer John Axford back through the middle to put Colorado in front for a 4-3 victory at Miller Park.

Though he walked with a noticeable limp in the visitor’s clubhouse and during batting practice, Cuddyer’s bruised left big toe did not matter once he entered the game.

“It doesn’t feel good, but at the same time, it’s not going to prevent me from doing much,” Cuddyer said. “I didn’t feel it when I was running to first base.”

With the infield drawn in, Cuddyer got a pitch he could hit, and more importantly, did not try to do too much with it.

All he had to do was get the ball through the infield and Cuddyer did just that, ripping the ball back up the middle to score Eric Young Jr..

Cuddyer picked up his team-leading 18th hit of the season and his ninth RBI, tying him for the most on the team. In his first year with the club, Cuddyer has quickly become a key contributor for the Rockies.

“He is a professional,” said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. “If you look the word up in the dictionary, I promise you his picture will be right next to the word. That’s who he is.

“To take the type of at-bat that he took in the ninth inning, that’s just a Major League at-bat in a big situation.”

The Rockies collected 11 hits on the night, but also left 10 runners on base. Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki scored the first two runs of the game, while Todd Helton added the third for the Rockies with his second home run of the season.

Tulowitzki picking up a pair of hits, driving in the first run and scoring the second, was a good sign for the Rockies after their shortstop got off to a slow start this season.

But the real promising aspect of Friday’s victory was the performance of Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin.

After cruising through five innings, a rough sixth kept Chacin from picking up an elusive first win of the season. But Tracy was very encouraged to see the right-hander go back out for a 1-2-3 seventh.

Chacin was dominant for 3 1/3 innings, retiring the first 10 batters he faced. Just two of those outs were fly balls, while Chacin recorded four strikeouts on his first time through the Brewers’ order.

“I just was trying to get ahead and then mix it up with my breaking ball,” Chacin said.

Tracy pointed to that as the key to Chacin’s success: “His secondary pitches were that much better tonight because he was throwing strikes with his fastball.”

Norichika Aoki connected for the first hit off Chacin, a low line drive that got past a diving Carlos Gonzalez in left field and rolled all the way to the wall. Aoki rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run, the first home run of his Major League career.

In the sixth, Aoki sparked a rally with his one-out double to center field. Corey Hart and Mat Gamel each drove in a run with two-out singles, scoring Aoki and Ryan Braun to tie the game at 3-3.

Aside from that inning, however, the Brewers continued to struggle at the plate.

“From the top of the order down, including myself, we have to get better,” Aramis Ramirez said. “I don’t have to mention any names. Everybody knows who they are. It’s time right now, we have to get better. It’s not early anymore.”

The victory put the Rockies back over .500 for the first time since they were 1-0 after winning on Opening Day in Houston.

While it was just the first game of three in Milwaukee, and the 13th of 162 this season, the Rockies were happy to get a good team win.

“That was a great baseball game to win against a very good baseball team in a building that it’s very tough to come in here and win baseball games,” Tracy said. “They just have that going for themselves and they’ve earned that right the way they’ve created it here. So we feel awfully good about what we just did.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies notes, 4/20

April 20, 2012 Comments off

Injured Cuddyer comes through in pinch

By Jordan Schelling / Special to MLB.com

MILWAUKEE — Michael Cuddyer was already scheduled to get a game off this week. So, with his injured toe still bothering him a bit on Friday, Cuddyer was not in the starting lineup.But injured toe and all, Cuddyer delivered the biggest hit of the game on Friday night: A pinch-hit single in the ninth to score what proved the winning run in a 4-3 victory over the Brewers.

Having fouled a ball off his foot during Wednesday’s game against the Padres, Cuddyer left after six innings with a bruised left big toe. Two pitches after the foul ball in question, Cuddyer belted a two-run home run in the Rockies’ 8-4 victory.

“It’s feeling better, but still sore,” Cuddyer said before Friday’s game.

Tyler Colvin got the start in right field on Friday.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy indicated that while Cuddyer could play if necessary, they would prefer to take the extra day and avoid any further injury to the toe. It helped that Cuddyer already was supposed to a day off soon.

“It was supposed to be this day, but it’s kind of a combination of both,” Tracy said. “If he was to bang another one down off there tonight very quickly and he walks in there tomorrow and tells me it will be a month before you see him again, I think it’s a really, really good idea to just back off for a day.

“As a result he gets a couple days in a row … and if everything goes according to plan, he’ll be out there tomorrow and ready to go again for another extended period of time.”

De La Rosa, Outman to pitch spring games

MILWAUKEE — Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa will pitch on Saturday in an extended Spring Training game, along with fellow lefty Josh Outman.

De La Rosa, who is in his fifth season with the Rockies, made just 10 starts a year ago before having Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.

“It will be to the tune of four innings and 60 pitches,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

Outman is working his way back after an oblique strain sustained earlier this month, after the 27-year-old reliever got food poisoning that resulted in a significant amount of vomiting.

“His will be a more controlled circumstance,” Tracy said. “His is more of a batting practice-type situation than it is actually pitching in the game like Jorge’s going to do.”

For Roenickes, series a family affair

MILWAUKEE — When right-handed reliever Josh Roenicke looks in from the visiting bullpen this weekend at Miller Park, he’ll see a very familiar face in the home dugout.

That’s because Roenicke’s uncle, Ron, is the Brewers’ second-year manager.

“I’m never very comfortable having him on the other side,” Ron said of Josh. “I’m rooting for him, but I’m rooting against him today. I hope he has a good year, but not against us.”

The younger Roenicke is in his second year with the Rockies, and will be squaring off against his uncle for the fourth time in his career. While he did not pitch last September during the Rockies’ two-game set in Milwaukee, Josh took the mound three times during the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Blue Jays against the Angels, when Ron was bench coach under Mike Scioscia.

Toronto won two of those three games against Los Angeles.

“I did pretty well against them,” Josh said. “It’s always fun [to face] him.”

Josh and Ron Roenicke talked on the phone on Thursday night, and also chatted on the field before Friday’s series opener.

The two are fairly close, and always spend time together in California during the holidays, where baseball is one of the main topics of conversation within the Roenicke family. Josh’s father Gary also played in the Major Leagues and Ron’s son Lance, who is an outfielder at UC-Santa Barbara, could be the next to carry on the family tradition.

“I saw him during Spring Training, and we went to dinner,” Josh said of Ron. “I’ll text him once in a while. A couple times a month, maybe.”

Josh, whose athletic ability Ron raved about before Friday’s game, said he keeps up with how the Brewers are doing throughout the season, checking the standings and boxscores, while also getting updates when he talks to his father.

With the Rockies having missed the 2011 playoffs, Josh was a big Brewers fan during the month of October.

“That was cool seeing him in his first year go to the playoffs; they had a good team,” said Josh, who also liked what he saw out of the Brewers in winning two of their last three coming into this weekend.

“It was good that they took a couple from the Dodgers.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Morgan says stop sign “was a deke”

April 19, 2012 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Nyjer Morgan ran through a stop sign from third base coach Ed Sedar on his way to scoring the winning run in Wednesday night’s 3-2 Brewers victory.

That much we know, and there’s no doubt about that. Unless of course you believe the replay showed Morgan being tagged out at the plate, then that’s an entirely different story.

But the question Thursday morning was this: Did Sedar put the stop sign up just for show, or was it definitely a signal for Morgan to retreat back to third base? Well, it depends whether you are more inclined to believe Morgan or Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

“It was a deke for the other team,” Morgan said with a grin. “It was a deke. I can’t tell you that, but it was a deke. It got ’em, too.

“If you see the replay, he second-guessed himself that little bit.

“[Sedar] said, ‘Anything close, anything in the vicinity, I’m going to put up the stop sign, but still you go.

“Never underestimate the sneakiness, guys, come on.”

After further review, that is to say asking Roenicke about it, it would seem there was no decoy intended in Sedar’s actions.

“I guess I can’t answer that then, I’d give away his secrets,” Roenicke said, before acknowledging decoy signals are not common in such situations in the Major Leagues.

“But like I said last night, sometimes you want a player to instinctually do things that he sees. And even when it doesn’t work out, we have to be OK with that.”

Roenicke also noted that he’s been through similar situations in the past when he was a third base coach with the Angels under manager Mike Scioscia. Sometimes the coach has to make the decision too soon, especially if he stays up closer to the base. And when he goes farther down the line as Sedar did, the runner may put his head down and miss the sign, which Morgan indicated also was the case in this situation.

What the runner is supposed to do with Sedar up the line is to go, but pick up the sign on his way to the plate. But Roenicke still gives his players the freedom to make the decision themselves if they’re so inclined.

So, what did Morgan see on the play that made him decide to go home on such a short flyball?

“I knew we had to get home. It was a quick turnaround the next day,” Morgan joked.

“Caught him (Kemp) flat-footed. He’s still one of the best center fielders in the game, one of the best ballplayers in the game. I’m always up for a challenge, and it was one of those where we had the crowd in it, the momentum was there, time to go home.”

As far as the question or whether he was safe or out, Morgan definitively — and unsurprisingly — believed he was safe. The Dodgers saw the replay differently, as it appeared that the tag may have been applied just before Morgan dragged his knee across the plate.

“But you can’t change it now,” he said.

“I knew I was safe.”