DENVER -- The "bump-in-the-road" pain Troy Tulowitzki experienced in his last start for the Rockies on Sunday didn't measure up to the challenge of having one of the club's best hitters champing at the bit on the bench.
After an off-day Monday and two rainy games with the Yankees, during which he was limited to a late-inning pinch-hit at bat in Wednesday's loss, Tulowitzki was back in the lineup for Thursday's rubber match.
"It's tough watching," Tulowitzki said before Thursday's 3-1 loss. "I think yesterday I was going to play. They just held me out because of the weather. That was their main concern, that I'd slip or something. And then the extra day was going to benefit my leg. I feel good. There's no doubt I'm going to go out there and play with it in the back of my mind and know that I have to take it easy, but there's also a point in time that you have to get out there, otherwise they're going to DL you."
Tulo sat the first two games of the series with a sore left groin, brewing concern about the groin injury that ended his 2012 season on May 30. Tulo accepted the cautious approach, and missed Friday's tilt with Tampa Bay while experiencing "heavy legs," then hit 5-for-8 with a homer and four RBIs the rest of the series.
"The rest has benefited me a lot," Tulowitzki said. "Three days ago, I was feeling real sore out there, even that day game I went out there against Tampa Bay, I was playing through some pain. My feedback was, 'Hey, it was a lot of pain out there,' and they said, 'All right, we need to get the MRI,' which they did. And then the rest came after that."
The MRI gave Tulowitzki and the club peace of mind that the nagging soreness was not more serious.
"I've been through some injuries in that leg and I know when it's major and I know when it's just a little bump in the road," Tulowitzki said. "I knew it wasn't something real severe, but I knew I'd probably have to get it taken care of. I didn't know how it was going to get taken care of, but they said the rest would do the job."
With much of the first two Yankees games played in the rain, the conditions favored Tulowitzki's return for Thursday's day game, despite intermittent rain and temperatures climbing back into the 50s.
"I had a pretty good feeling that he'd be ready to go," manager Walt Weiss said. "He was trying to talk his way into the lineup [Wednesday] night, so I had a pretty good feeling that he'd be ready to go today."
Tulowitzki pinch-hit in the eighth inning Friday and was intentionally walked. He pinch-hit again in the eighth Wednesday and was hit by a David Robertson curve that glanced off his helmet and neck.
"I was all right, it just stung a little bit," Tulowitzki said. "Got me in the vertebrae. Good thing it was an offspeed pitch."
Tulowitzki singled in his first at-bat and finished 1-for-3.
Tulo, CarGo swap lineup spots against Sabathia
DENVER -- If Troy Tulowitzki had any hesitation about returning to action Thursday, a glance at the lineup card gave him a sense of ease and excitement about the "sick protection" he saw hitting behind him.
With the return of Tulowitzki after two days resting his sore groin, and with Yankees ace CC Sabathia on the mound, Rockies manager Walt Weiss juggled his lineup, flipping Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, putting Gonzalez in Tulowitzki's customary cleanup spot.
"I don't remember the last time I hit behind Tulo," Gonzalez said after Tulowitzki showed him the lineup card. "I'm just going to continue to do my thing. It doesn't matter where I'm hitting, as long as it works for the team."
Weiss also had Eric Young Jr. leading off and playing in right field in place of Michael Cuddyer and put .309-hitting Jordan Pacheco at first for Todd Helton, hitting seventh between Nolan Arenado and Josh Rutledge. Helton is hitting .273, and knocked his second home run of the season Wednesday night, accounting for all the runs in a 3-2 loss.
"Tulo is a prototypical No. 3 hitter -- both guys are," Weiss said off flipping his three- and four-hole hitters. "Against a tough left-hander, I decided to go with Tulo in that spot today."
Young's speed atop the lineup is always a bonus, and pairing his .304 average with Dexter Fowler's team-high eight home runs should make for a dynamic duo in front of Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, and Wilin Rosario in the five-spot.
"I like having EY and Dexter back-to-back," Weiss said. "Hopefully they can create something."
As for the "sick protection" both Tulowitzki and Fowler greeted with broad smiles, Weiss refrained from overstating the significance.
"We've got protection for most of our guys throughout the lineup," Weiss said. "I don't think it changes a whole lot as for the way pitchers are going to approach our hitters."
Tulowitzki and Gonzalez finished a combined 1-for-6 with an RBI in the 3-1 loss to the Yankees.
Dierks named Rockies' Honorary Bat Girl
DENVER -- The Rockies announced the winner of their "Honorary Bat Girl" contest winner on Thursday, choosing Paz Dierks for the position as part of Major League Baseball's "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" campaign.
The contest recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and who have demonstrated a commitment to eradicating the disease.
Dierks will be recognized in a pregame ceremony on May 19, when the Rockies play the Giants. Each of the 30 Major League teams have selected honorary bat girls to take part in on-field ceremonies and to receive pink MLB merchandise and two tickets to the game.
Dierks, 35, learned she had stage 3A breast cancer last August, when she was 13 weeks pregnant. She met with an oncologist and a surgeon, and together they determined she would have to have a right breast mastectomy. After healing from her surgery, she started chemotherapy in the 19th week of her pregnancy. She also underwent chemotherapy during weeks 22, 25 and 28.
During week 32, Paz delivered a healthy baby boy. She recently finished her 11th of 12 infusions in her second round of chemotherapy.
Fans across the country shared inspirational stories that provide hope and motivation in the fight against breast cancer, as well as the reasons they or their nominees should represent their favorite team. The 30 Honorary Bat Girl winners were selected by fan votes on HonoraryBatGirl.com along with feedback from a panel that included CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals, Maria Menounos of Extra TV and Sam Ryan, MLB Network host and reporter.
Additional observances of MLB's "Going to Bat Against Cancer" campaign include hundreds of players using pink bats on Mother's Day and the opportunity for fans to get a personalized pink bat by going to shop.mlb.com or sluggergifts.com. Game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats from Mother's Day games will be auctioned exclusively on MLB.com to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.
To further demonstrate their support for the breast cancer cause, players and on-field personnel will wear the symbolic pink ribbon on their uniforms along with pink wrist bands. Commemorative base jewels and dugout lineup cards will also be pink.
The Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative. In four years, over 4,000 testimonials have been submitted and more than 10 million fan votes have been cast.
Partnering with Stand Up to Cancer, a charitable program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the initiative has set out to raise awareness about breast cancer and to raise funds to support life-saving breast cancer research.
• Rafael Betancourt has nine saves in nine opportunities this season, posting a 1-1 record with a 1.88 ERA. One interesting statistic, however, is his eight walks (one intentional) in 15 games spanning 14 1/3 innings.
Last season Betancourt allowed 12 walks all season while posting 31 saves in 60 games with a 2.81 ERA over 57 2/3 innings.
"I'm not really concerned," manager Walt Weiss said. "His misses have been near-misses. Even [Wednesday] night, he threw some balls right on the edge of the zone. It still looks like Raffy to me. It doesn't look like anything's going on there."
Betancourt pitched the ninth in both Yankees games, and Weiss said he should be available for a third consecutive appearance if needed.
"Unless I hear otherwise, Raffy would be available," Weiss said. "He's a borderline guy today."
• Regis Jesuit, the high school team Weiss managed before taking the Rockies job, is poised to open its bid for the Colorado State Championship, Class 5A, this weekend. The team is seeded eighth in the tournament, and features Weiss' son Brody, a senior, as the starting shortstop. Brody is committed to the University of California-Santa Barbara.
"That's a fun tournament," Weiss said. "I've been a part of that the last three or four years, helping out with Regis. It's a really good time, and Regis always shows up well in that state tournament, so go Raiders."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.