DENVER -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado thought his left hand was broken Sunday, but it felt good enough Monday night that he entered the game as a pinch-hitter against the Braves.With runners at first and second in the seventh inning of a scoreless game, Arenado entered to face Atlanta
DENVER -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado thought his left hand was broken Sunday, but it felt good enough Monday night that he entered the game as a pinch-hitter against the Braves.
With runners at first and second in the seventh inning of a scoreless game, Arenado entered to face Atlanta starter Julio Teheran but hit a popup to first base in foul ground. The Rockies rallied for three runs an inning later to pick up a 3-0 victory.
Before the game, Arenado took dry swings and hit off a tee and against soft-toss in the Coors Field batting cage. Arenado, the Majors' RBI leader with 100, displayed a swollen hand -- from a bone bruise that resulted from a pitch by the Marlins' Vance Worley in Sunday's 5-3 Rockies loss -- but he was able to squeeze and flex it.
"The grip's fine, it's just getting to the point of contact that's what hurts," Arenado said.
X-rays showed no break at the spot -- toward the base of the hand, on the outside. A flight home after the game increased the concern about swelling, but he didn't hesitate to pick up a bat and take swings.
"I was going to take them, probably even if it was broken," Arenado said. "I was just trying to see if it was all right. I'm not afraid to pick up a bat and swing it around all the time.
"It's swollen. It hurts. But it's not as bad as we thought it was going to be."
• To clear a roster spot for right-hander Chad Bettis, who threw seven shutout innings in his return from a bout with testicular cancer, the Rockies optioned Carlos Estevez back to Triple-A Albuquerque to end his seventh Major League stint. This one hurt; Estevez pitched four scoreless innings and held opponents to two hits and two walks.
Estevez, 24, forced into closing duty as a rookie last season, was asked to make changes in his delivery. But last time he was sent down, he decided to drift toward his old delivery but adhere to the principle of not collapsing his plant leg. At the coaches' request earlier this season, Estevez eliminated a high leg kick and simply strode to the plate. After not feeling in control, Estevez went to a kick not nearly as high.
"Some stuff doesn't connect with me; it was time to go back to what I know how to do," Estevez said. "I have better command of all my pitches. The slider is sharper, the change is better and I was able to keep attacking."
• Rockies first baseman-outfielder Ian Desmond, out with a right calf strain, continued to take batting practice on the field but manager Bud Black said he "still has a few hurdles to get over in the short term" before being considered for a Minor League rehab assignment.
• Former National League MVP Ryan Howard, who joined the Rockies on a Minor League contract, made his Triple-A debut Sunday and went 1-for-6 with a double in a 22-1 victory over Fresno. After spending his career with the Phillies, Howard signed a Minor League deal with the Braves this year but was released May 8.
"It's been a little while -- last night was my first game situation," said Howard, who has been hitting and fielding on his own. "So all in all, obviously, getting the 'W' last night was the most important thing. But me personally, going 1-for-6, I was pretty pleased with some of the at-bats. Just a little bit ahead of where I thought I'd be for not seeing constant game action for a while."
The hope is Howard can help during the stretch run at first base or off the bench.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.