DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood hopes to leave for a Minor League rehab assignment on Thursday as he completes his comeback from a back strain.Chatwood, who sustained the injury last Saturday at Miami, used all of his pitches in a bullpen session on Saturday and plans another on Monday.
DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood hopes to leave for a Minor League rehab assignment on Thursday as he completes his comeback from a back strain.
Chatwood, who sustained the injury last Saturday at Miami, used all of his pitches in a bullpen session on Saturday and plans another on Monday. Saturday's bullpen had a slight modification -- the catcher was positioned at home plate, instead of behind -- but he threw all the pitches at full speed, and he'll do the same with the catcher positioned normally on Monday for 40-45 pitches.
At 8-4 with a 3.15 ERA, including 5-0 with a 1.25 road ERA that leads all Major Leaguers who qualify for an ERA title, Chatwood emerged as an All-Star Game candidate before the injury. But even before the back issue, the Rockies' excitement was against a backdrop of concern.
Since Chatwood didn't pitch at all last season and missed all but the first month of 2014 because of Tommy John surgery, the Rockies planned all along to pick spots to rest Chatwood. The back injury turned out to be one, although it was more painful than Chatwood would have liked.
"I guess you could look at it that way, but I don't want to come out of a game like that," said Chatwood, who felt back tightness during warmups and had to leave the game against the Marlins after 1 2/3 innings. "At some point, they were going to try to skip some starts or something, so maybe this takes care of that."
Germen there when Rockies need him: Righty reliever Gonzalez Germen showed his versatility and importance on Saturday. Germen escaped the eighth inning with a one-run lead and -- after the Rockies scored four in the eighth -- pitched the ninth for his third career save in an 11-6 victory over the D-backs.
Germen (2-0, 4.18 ERA) pitched in four of the Rockies' last five games going into Sunday's game -- with no runs charged. Of his 26 appearances, Germen has gone more than one inning eight times, including three of two or more frames. A changeup that has led to not-too-extreme splits (left-handed hitters .261, righties .237) allows manager Walt Weiss to use him in different ways.
"He's been the interchangeable part down there," Weiss said. "Sometimes we use him early to bridge that gap between the starter and the back end, sometimes we've used him in matchup situations depending on what the rest of the bullpen looks like. He's that floating piece."
DJ deserving? Player votes for All-Star Game spots were due on Sunday, and that appears to be the best route for a Rockies player to make an appearance. The last update showed shortstop Trevor Story and third baseman Nolan Arenado were the closest to earning a starting spot through fan voting, and Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon were at least in the picture in the outfield.
But second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who appeared in the game last year and entered Sunday hitting .328 with five home runs, five triples and 19 doubles, was not in the top five at his position.
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"You look at what Nolan is doing, but DJ has been one of our best players all year, and you could make an argument that he's right there with Nolan, especially when you look at the consistency," Weiss said. "He keeps getting better and better, and much like Nolan [at third], he can change the game at second base.
"In my humble opinion, we've got three infielders in the All-Star Game -- Story, Nolan, DJ."
McGee nearing next step: After throwing a bullpen session on Sunday, left-handed closer Jake McGee will take fielding practice on Monday at Coors before scheduled rehab games on Tuesday and on Thursday at Class A Advanced Modesto. He hopes to rejoin the Rockies during their weekend series against the Dodgers.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.