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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.

Humber makes strong return in Game 1 win

September 5, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — In his first full season in the Major Leagues, right-hander Philip Humber has learned that it is just as much a mental grind as a physical one — if not more so — over the course of 162 games.

So while getting hit just above his right eye with a line drive and missing two weeks as a result was far from ideal, the time off may turn out to be just what Humber needed to get back to the way he pitched in the first half of the season.

In his first start since Aug. 18, Humber delivered his best outing of the second half as the White Sox picked up a 2-1 victory over the Twins in the first game of a split doubleheader on Monday.

“It feels like it’s been a year since I had a win,” Humber said. “The guys did a great job getting those runs early, and I just kind of got a lot of ground balls. It was a great feeling to have some success.”

With the win, the White Sox snapped a four-game losing streak and remained 8 1/2 games back of the first-place Tigers in the American League Central. Chicago has won four in a row at Target Field, its first four-game streak in Minnesota since May 23-July 1, 2004.

Humber tossed seven scoreless innings, giving up just six hits as he struck out six and did not walk a batter. While he allowed all of his baserunners over his last five frames, Humber allowed more than one batter to reach base just twice — in the third and seventh innings.

He did not have a good feel for his curveball, so Humber and White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski focused more on the slider, giving the Twins a different look than expected.

“He’s developed a really good slider. He didn’t have that pitch when he was with us,” said Luke Hughes, who played with Humber in the Twins’ system. “So he’s kind of stepped it up a little for sure. We talked about it at lunch today. That pitch has made him successful, and he’s had a great year.”

It was Humber’s first scoreless outing of seven innings or more, and his first win, since July 2 at Wrigley Field, when he held the Cubs without a run on just five hits over seven frames. Humber has gone seven or more scoreless innings three times this season, with the other instance being April 25 at Yankee Stadium.

Humber had his last start cut short after 1 1/3 innings when he was struck just above his right eye with a line drive off the bat of Kosuke Fukudome. In his previous six starts, Humber had gone 0-4 with a 7.16 ERA, giving up 22 earned runs in 27 2/3 innings.

In his first start since coming off the disabled list, Humber looked more like the pitcher that went 8-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 15 starts before the All-Star break.

“He seemed like he got it back,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. “All the time off and things, it seemed like he was stronger again.”

Humber will now look to build on this strong start over the final month of the season.

“I hope so, it’s a lot more fun getting them out than it is struggling to hold them,” Humber said. “Hopefully, just build off that and use that confidence into my next couple of starts.”

After being retired in order by Twins right-hander Anthony Swarzak in the first inning, the White Sox scored one run each in the second and third. Pierzynski led off with a double in the second and scored on Alejandro De Aza’s fielder’s choice.

In the third, Juan Pierre singled with one out, and Alexei Ramirez drove him in with a double down the left-field line.

Swarzak allowed just two runs on seven hits over eight innings of work, but he took the loss as the Twins could not provide any run support. Eight innings matched a career high for Swarzak, who struck out four batters without a walk.

Things got interesting in the ninth, when Sergio Santos came in after Matt Thornton got the first out of the inning, but Santos struggled and was removed in favor of Chris Sale. Santos allowed a walk, single and sacrifice fly, cutting the lead to one run, but Sale got the strikeout to end the ballgame.

Santos struggled for the second straight outing, but Guillen said he would stick with the right-hander in the closer’s role.

“It was more a gut feeling than anything. I wanted the matchup with Repko [against Sale],” Guillen said. “The last thing we wanted to do was lose a game like that.

“If we’ve got the same opportunity for Santos [in Game 2], he’s going to be back on the mound.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.