September 2009

Murton makes his return

It appears outfielder Matt Murton finally gets what he deserves — a chance to stay in the Majors. All Murton has done is hit .324 with 27 doubles, 12 home runs and 79 RBIs at Triple-A Colorado Springs. At one point he set a Sky Sox record with a 29-game hit streak. But all that got him before now was two brief trips to the Majors.

Such is life when a team has a stacked outfield, the way the Rockies do. When the Rockies acquired him from the Athletics for infielder Cory Wimberly during the offseason, they figured part of Murton’s value was he had a Minor League option and could be sent up and down for roster purposes. That’s exactly what happened, even though Murton did well in Colorado Springs and decently in 22 games with the Rockies (.267, one home run, five doubles, six RBIs). But on Tuesday, Murton was one of four players from Colorado Springs to be called up for the final 24 games.

It’s not as if the Rockies are calling up Murton, infielder Mike McCoy and pitchers Matt Belisle and Jhoulys Chacin as rewards for a job well done. All could come into play in the final days. Murton had several big moments as a part-time player with the Cubs over the last several years. McCoy is valuable since starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is suffering from back spasms. With an expanded roster, having a couple of extra pitchers like Chacin — the team’s top prospect — and Bellisle around can’t hurt.

To keep the Major League roster below the 40-man limit, the Rockies made a couple of paperwork moves. By calling designating right-handed pitcher Adam Eaton for assignment and calling up infielder Chris Nelson but putting him on the 60-day disabled list, the club cleared the necessary spots so they could purchase the contracts of Belisle and McCoy.

For those interested, Murton (No. 14) and Chacin (45) will keep the same jersey numbers as they had in their earlier callups. McCoy will wear 18. Belisle returns wearing No. 34 after a trade with fellow righty reliever Matt Herges, who will wear 32. 

Fowler on comeback trail

Sunday was a disappointing day for fans at Double-A Tulsa. The Drillers fell to Northwest Arkansas, 6-3, and were eliminated from playoff competition. They’ll play their season finale today. And it should be the finale of center fielder Dexter Fowler’s rehab assignment for a bruised right knee.

Fowler went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk on Sunday. The plan is for the Rockies to re-evaluate Fowler on Tuesday, and possibly activate him Wednesday. Fowler is 0-for-5 with three srikeouts and two walks in two games with the Drillers.

New travel plan for Fowler

Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler will begin his injury rehab assignment on Saturday, but he’ll do it at Double-A Tulsa instead of Triple-A Colorado Springs. The Rockies originally announced Fowler, who is on the disabled list with a bruised right knee, would rehab with Triple-A Colorado Springs, but that club is in Tacoma, Wash., and rain is expected.

Right-hander Aaron Cook is playing catch at 100 feet and still hopes to make his return from a sore right shoulder before the regular season ends. Lefty reliever Alan Embree is getting close to being able to throw a bullpen session, which means he has hope of making an improbable return from the fractured left fibula that he suffered on July 10. Righty reliever Manuel Corpas has begun throwing, but it’s unlikely he’ll return from the surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow and the subsequent surgery for an infection in the forearm not long after the surgery. Lefty Jeff Francis, who underwent shoulder surger in February, continues to throw bullpen sessions with an eye toward pitching in instructional ball in Tucson, Ariz.

Fowler running fine; Cook progressing slowly

Center fielder Dexter Fowler looked to have a smooth stride while running on the outfield grass at Coors Field on Thursday. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on Wednesday. Head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said Fowler will increase his baseball activities on Friday.

Right-hander Aaron Cook played catch the last two days and took Thursday off. Dugger said there’s still a distance to go before Cook can throw a bullpen session and accelerate what he hopes is a return to the rotation before the end of the regular season.

Flores could play pivotal role; Stewart returns

Rockies left-handed reliever Randy Flores went 0-0 with a 5.63 ERA in 16 games with the Rockies from May 16 to July 4, before the club sent him down to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Flores, remember, ended last season with shoulder surgery while with the Cardinals. But he said he had no idea how far he was from top form when he was.

“I don’t know how everyone else is wired, but each day that I was throwing, I was telling myself that I was ready, and I’d work and do the best I can that day,” Flores said. “In hindsight, you could see the steps and the gradual progress. It’s been a bunch of baby steps that have allowed me to progress to where I am now.”

Flores posted a 2.35 ERA after being sent down. By August, he was back to top form.

“Part of it is the muscle memory of removing bad habits leading up to injury, and afterward,” he said. “There was progress made over this last month.”

Now he’s a needed piece of the Rockies’ puzzle.

Flores has pitched big games before. He appeared in the postseason with the Cardinals in 2005 and 2006, and posted a 1.00 ERA in 12 relief outings. With Franklin Morales being the only other lefty in the bullpen, it figures that Flores will be called upon at crucial times.

“I do have some history of pitching in some of those situations, and I look forward to getting one out or pitching four innings, whatever this club needs,” Flores said.


— Third baseman Ian Stewart missed Tuesday night’s 8-3 victory over the Mets to be with his wife, Susan, for the birth of the couple’s first child, a girl, Ellsi Gray Stewart. She was born Tuesday at 4:25 p.m. and measured 7.5 pounds and 20 inches. Stewart was back in teh Rockies’ lineup Wednesday.

Giambi arrives; Contreras to throw Saturday

The Rockies touted their veteran reinforcements on Tuesday, the beginning of what promises to be a mad dash that they hope will end in a playoff berth.

Left-handed swinging pinch-hitter Jason Giambi, who was released by the Athletics last month, joined the Rockies after a few days at Triple-A Colorado Springs to regain his swing. He hit home runs in his last two games with the Sky Sox.

“There is no small role when you’re in a pennant race,” Giambi said.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy also announced that right-hander Jose Contreras, who was acquired from the White Sox for Minor League right-hander Brandon Hynick on Monday night, will start Saturday against the D-backs and is in line to pitch against the Reds when the next turn in the rotation comes. Contreras is filling in for Aaron Cook (sore right shoulder), who played catch on Tuesday with no problems.

Also being promoted from Colorado Springs are left-handed reliever Randy Flores, righty reliever Joel Peralta and catcher Paul Phillips. All had their moments with the Rockies earlier this season.

Other possibilities for the Rockies this month are right-handers Russ Ortiz and Jhoulys Chacin, both of whom are helping Colorado Springs in its attempt to earn a playoff berth.