DENVER -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado just might have caught the bug left behind last year by infielder Marco Scutaro.
From Opening Day until he was traded to the Giants last year, Scutaro hit .271. With the Giants in the last 36 games of the regular season, Scutaro hit .362, then was one of the team's best offensive players in its run to the World Series title. Those who watched the at-bats closely believe simple fortune was the difference between the numbers in Denver and those in San Francisco.
Now Arenado, a rookie, entered Sunday's game against the Cubs at .239. The hits have been hard -- 16 doubles, two triples and seven home runs out of 66 hits. Many of the outs also have been hit hard, which has led to plenty of late-night, sanity-preserving talks with veterans Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton.
"It hurts mentally sometimes; the whole thing is you want to help the team win, but when you're getting out all the time and not helping the team win, it bothers you," Arenado said. "It gets a little frustrating. But Tulo and Todd have helped keep me grounded."
On Sunday, he hit sixth, but the previous two games he batted eighth -- often a tough spot because opposing pitchers, realizing the pitcher usually is on deck, avoid hittable pitches.
Arenado has made a couple of successful in-game adjustments. He drew an eighth-inning walk Friday that helped get effective Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija out of the contest. On Saturday night Arenado had an RBI grounder.
"It's different, a tough place to hit, because you may see one good pitch an at-bat," Arenado said. "But I've got to adjust and compete. I know things haven't gone my way lately, but I still keep hitting the ball hard. I'll be fine."
Fowler's return to form boosts Rox offense
DENVER -- For all the power in the middle of the Rockies' lineup, it made sense that it took leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler to pull the offense out of its recent rut.
Fowler's two-run triple started turned Saturday night's game against the Cubs -- an eventual 9-3 victory.
Rockies were 35-32 when Fowler was hit on the right ring finger by a pitch from the Nationals' Ross Detwiler on June 13. That was the same day that shortstop Troy Tulowitzki suffered a broken rib that cost him 25 games, but it could be argued that Fowler's injury was just as devastating.
Between being hit and June 25, his last appearance before going to the 15-day disabled list with a wrist injury that was related to compensating for the finger pain, Fowler played just seven games and hit .174 with a .296 on-base percentage. The Rockies were 3-4 in those games. Between Fowler being hit and his return from the DL on July 11, the Rockies were 9-16.
Fowler went 0-for-4 in a loss to the Dodgers in his first game back, but from the next game through Saturday the Rockies were 3-2 while Fowler hit 6-for-19 (.316) with a double, a triple, a home run and four RBIs and compiled a .391 on-base percentage.
Fowler entered Sunday's start against the Cubs hitting .288 with a .385 on-base percentage. If he can return to the numbers before the day he was hurt -- .303 with a .397 on-base -- it could make the Rockies' lineup that much more effective. The All-Star break didn't give the finger time to heal completely; that'll happen in the offseason. But in two games, he has a home run and a triple.
"I've just got to keep treating it, doing manuals and all that, trying to get it back right, but it won't be right until the offseason," Fowler said. "But it's manageable."
Fowler admitted he might have benefited from going to the DL sooner.
"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "You think you can play through it, but it ends up getting worse. With something like that, I probably should have waited a little longer before trying to play, but it was just my eagerness to get back on the field."
Fowler's homer Friday off Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija was his first since June 2, but it brought his total to 11 -- two shy of his career high. Fowler said he's not consciously looking for home runs but feels they're a natural outgrowth of his swing, as long as he is healthy.
"I'm just trying to drive the ball and see what happens," Fowler said.
Weiss impressed by Tulo since 2005 Draft
DENVER -- Manager Walt Weiss said if he'd had his way, Troy Tulowitzki would have been the Rockies' shortstop immediately after the club drafted him in the first round (seventh overall) out of Long Beach State in 2005.
Weiss was a special advisor to general manager Dan O'Dowd at the time.
"He came out here and worked out right after the Draft, and I went upstairs to talk to Dan and said, 'Where is this kid going?'" Weiss said. "He said, 'Modesto.' I said, 'Does he have to go there?'
"I was serious. I said, 'Can we keep this kid? He's that good.' He made that kind of an impression on me right away. He's a very unique talent."
Tulowitzki entered Sunday's game against the Cubs hitting .338. Had he not missed 25 games with a broken rib and dropped below the threshold of plate appearances per game to be eligible for the batting title, he would have been No. 1 in the National League.
Rox recalling Pomeranz for opener with Marlins
DENVER -- Not that it's been a secret, but manager Walt Weiss made it official Sunday that left-hander Drew Pomeranz (0-3, 8.76 ERA in three starts) will start Monday night in the opener of four games with the Marlins.
Pomeranz will be officially recalled from Double-A Tulsa for the start.
In the three starts for the Rockies this year, Pomeranz has repeatedly fallen behind hitters -- something he'll have to correct to stay in the Majors. The Rockies obtained righty Armando Galarraga in a trade with the Reds last Monday, and Galarraga made his Triple-A Colorado Springs debut on Sunday. The Rockies also have former Mets righty Collin McHugh at Colorado Springs.
After a rough start in Los Angeles before the break, the Rockies sent Pomeranz to Double-A for a start. The numbers were rough -- seven earned runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings against Northwest Arkansas. It was during that game that he added a slider to his pitch mix to make him more competitive against right-handed hitters, who have blistered him at a .436 clip in his Major League outings.
"He'll throw some sliders, but I don't know if it'll be a big factor -- it's a pitch that's just been introduced to him," Weiss said. "I don't think he'll rely on it heavily. Hopefully, in time, that will become a nice weapon for him.
"It comes down to command, like it does pretty much with everybody. If you don't get strike one and you're in bad counts, it's really tough to pitch in this league. It's hard to say why his command hasn't been as good as it could be, but that's the key for him."
To make room for Pomeranz on the active roster, the Rockies will option infielder Josh Rutledge to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Rutledge was the Opening Day second baseman, but he struggled and was sent down in May. He returned in June when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki suffered a broken rib but didn't produce offensively, and is hitting .211 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 67 Major League games.
DJ LeMahieu (hitting .268 with one home run and 12 RBIs) has seen most of the action at second base recently.
Rosario praises Nicasio's work since return
DENVER -- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario liked the confidence that right-hander Juan Nicasio has shown in two winning starts since his return from a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Rosario said his job as a catcher is to keep Nicasio encouraged, but that can be difficult under big league pressure. Both players skipped the Triple-A level on the way to the Majors, and when they've struggled at times, both have had to deal with questions about whether they should go to Triple-A for work.
"We come from humble families, and when we got here to the Major Leagues there were a lot of people, a lot of media talking the same thing, 'If you don't pitch good, what can happen?'" Rosario said. "That's what I see. So many things can get to your mind.
"He's been a lot better. He's very talented, and he's developing in the National League."
Rosario was impressed by an often-overlooked aspect of pitching. On Dexter Fowler's two-out triple in the third inning that gave the Rockies a 3-1 lead, Nicasio had to score from first base. The inning ended shortly thereafter. Nicasio took the mound winded but pitched a solid inning.
"I told him to try to pick it up a little bit, be aggressive," Rosario said. "When you run too much, the altitude kills you -- it's hard to breathe. Two times, he had to run. When he came back to pitch, it's not easy."
• A surprise greeted the Rockies on Sunday morning -- usual cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki was batting third in a switch with Carlos Gonzalez, who leads the National League with 26 home runs.
It turned out there was no special strategy. The Rockies started left-handed-hitting Charlie Blackmon in right field -- as Michael Cuddyer moved from right to first base and Todd Helton rested -- and put him in the No. 2 slot.
"I just wanted to split up the lefties," Walt Weiss said. "A lot of it just depends on our lineup that particular day. That's not something I'm committed to. Either guy could hit three or four. For me, it's not that big of a deal."
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.