With Tulo resting, Rosario steps in as cleanup hitter
DENVER -- For the Sunday series finale at the end of Opening Week, manager Walt Weiss made four changes to his regular lineup, resting Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer and rookie second baseman Josh Rutledge.
With Tulo out of the lineup for the first time this season, Rosario stepped in to the cleanup spot, anchoring a lineup that has hit 11 home runs (tied with the Reds and Blue Jays for the most in the Majors) and posted a best-in-baseball .894 team OPS heading into Sunday.
"Long-term, he's a middle of the lineup guy," Weiss said of Rosario. "I have no problem putting him in the cleanup spot."
Rosario was unfazed by the move, having started 30 games at cleanup in an injury-riddled lineup during his rookie campaign in 2012, when he led all National League rookies and all Rockies with 28 home runs.
"If I hit seven, eight, or four-hole hitter, I don't see a lot of difference," Rosario said. "Whatever spot I hit in the lineup, they're going to pitch me the same."
Rosario is even more comfortable at the plate as he starts his sophomore season, taking a more mature approach to self-evaluation and recognizing the patterns that cost him a little in 2012.
"I feel different from last year," Rosario said. "I can recognize when I swing at those bad pitches in the dirt. If I keep swinging at them, they'll keep throwing them to me."
Eric Young Jr. made his second start of the season, with Cuddyer nursing a sore wrist after rolling it making a diving attempt at a catch in right field late in Saturday's game. EY took the leadoff spot, with Dexter Fowler dropping to the two-hole for the game.
"Two guys at the top that run like they do puts a lot of pressure on the defense," Weiss said of the Young-Fowler tandem. "Those guys are always looking to take extra bases, looking to steal bases. It makes the defense uncomfortable. It makes the pitcher uncomfortable because he's got to control the running game. It's a nice element at the top of the lineup."
Other changes include Jordan Pacheco getting his second start at first base, Reid Brignac spelling Rutledge at second, and Jonathan Herrera making his first start at short as Tulo sits for the first time this season.
"I try to look at Tulo's situation in about a two-or-three-week window and try to gauge what will be the best spot for him to get a day," Weiss explained. "Matchups can play into it, but it didn't today. The fact that we're going out on the west coast and we got six out there, as opposed to him playing today and then trying to grind out six on the west coast, this just made sense, to get him a day before we head west."
The four bench players starting Sunday are hitting a combined .353 (6-for-17) on the season, helping round out an offense that has pleased Weiss with its patient approach and versatility in the first week out of the gate.
"It's been a good balance for us offensively," Weiss said. "We've shown some power. We've made some pitchers work. I like the balance of our offense. We didn't bang the ball [Saturday] night, but we had some tough pitches with runners in scoring position and drove some runs in that way, without barreling up the ball. There's going to have to be some versatility to our offense for us to score runs. We can't just hit the ball in the seats every night, it's not possible."