DENVER -- The Rockies gave shortstop Troy Tulowitzki planned rest Wednesday, which means he will have two off-days before Friday's series opener in San Francisco.
The move took some fans by surprise and enraged the more vocal set on social media. The first-place D-backs -- tied with the Giants -- and the Rockies entered Wednesday separated by one game. But on May 22, manager Walt Weiss relied on the simple fact that the World Series isn't for months.
Weiss said he and Tulowitzki discussed taking the last game with the Giants off, but Tulowitzki has hit well lately and the idea of waiting and having two days in a row made sense.
Having seen their season scuttled last year in part because Tulowitzki missed the majority of it after undergoing right groin surgery in June, the plan is to schedule rest and take time off when there are flare-ups. Tulowitzki had an inflammation issue at the start of this month and missed three starts.
The strategy has worked. Fully healthy, Tulowitzki has hit .364 with two home runs and 10 RBIs, and compiled a .969 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) over his last 10 games, and the Rockies have gone 6-4.
"Of course I'd want Tulo out there for 162 games," Weiss said. "Who wouldn't? But we knew we were going to have to be smarter than that going in.
"There are all kinds of trappings. Of course we need this game. It's a divisional opponent, but it's more important that Tulo gets two days in a row, and we keep him out there for the bulk of the season."
Lefty Francis feels good after bullpen session
DENVER -- Left-hander Jeff Francis (left groin strain) felt good Wednesday after a 25-pitch bullpen Tuesday. Actually, Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said he had wanted to limit Francis to a "touch-and-feel" 'pen session, but the fact that he was able to throw 25 pitches was positive.
Francis will accompany the team to San Francisco, where he will play long toss Friday and throw another bullpen Saturday. Beyond that, the plan for rehab under game conditions hasn't been set.
Twice this year -- with right-hander Jhoulys Chacin earlier and outfielder-first baseman Michael Cuddyer currently -- the team has elected to slot the players into extended spring games in Scottsdale, Ariz., as opposed to a more traditional Minor League rehab assignment. For example, Cuddyer was scheduled to play Wednesday against an Angels team with injured standout Jered Weaver pitching.
However, Francis said he prefers pitching in a Minor League game.
"Just for me to get on a mound is the next thing I'm looking forward to," Francis said. "I like the [Minor League] game better. There's a little more intensity."
Betancourt expects to be on the mound Friday
DENVER -- Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt had an anti-inflammatory shot in his right groin on Wednesday, and expects to return to the mound Friday at San Francisco and avoid the 15-day disabled list.
Betancourt has been pitching with groin tightness since late April, yet he is 10-for-10 in save opportunities this year and has a 1.56 ERA in 19 games. However, he was removed after two pitches in the 10th inning of Tuesday night's 5-4 victory over the D-backs.
The problem stems from the 2009 complete right groin tear that he suffered with the Indians. The Rockies acquired him in a trade later that year, and he has had to navigate through the pain each year. The inflammation is near the scar tissue from the injury.
"It's something I've been dealing with for the last five years," Betancourt said. "Two days is enough."
In the interim, the Rockies have options. Lefty Rex Brothers carries a sparkling 0.44 ERA, with one earned run in 20 1/3 innings, including a 17-innings scoreless streak. Righty Wilton Lopez has been scoreless in 13 of his last 14 appearances.
There has been talk of Brothers, 25, eventually taking over as closer. But Betancourt, 38, shows no signs of slowing, and Brothers has become one of the most effective lefty setup men in the game. Brothers said he would welcome the chance to close, but added, "We need Raffy."
Weiss, unafraid to shake up order, bats Fowler cleanup
DENVER -- Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler arrived at Coors Field on Wednesday looking quite cool in his designer jacket and pants and bow tie.
And he managed to keep his cool after being hit with a surprise.
With the Rockies resting cleanup man Troy Tulowitzki, not wanting to disrupt No. 3 hitter Carlos Gonzalez and wanting to move hot second baseman DJ LeMahieu up in the order to No. 2, manager Walt Weiss wrote Fowler -- normally either the leadoff or No. 2 hitter -- into the cleanup spot.
They had not discussed the move, but Weiss hasn't been shy about changing the top and bottom of the order based on hot streaks, players resting or matchups.
"It's kind of weird not hitting at the top, but it's all right," Fowler said. "I think it's fun. It's good for one game with Tulo out, but I'll have fun with it.
"I just came in and saw it. I trust Walt, whatever he does."
Weiss began his career with the Athletics under manager Tony La Russa, who often jumbled his lineup and sometimes even had guys playing unfamiliar positions.
"There was a method to his madness," Weiss said.
Weiss, in his first year, hasn't reached La Russa levels of strangeness in the lineup. He prefers keeping the middle of his order consistent when all the players are available. That wasn't the case Wednesday, with Tulowitzki and catcher Wilin Rosario resting, and Michael Cuddyer out until Friday because of a neck injury. Beyond that, he doesn't mind changing things up periodically, especially with the Rockies' versatile roster.
Weiss rejects the thinking that the occasional change disturbs preparation.
"With the middle-of-the-order guys, you don't want to get too crazy, because they're your run producers, and there's a level of comfort with them being in the same spot," Weiss said. "I don't really buy into, 'That screws up my approach, if I'm in a different spot in the lineup.' Just go up there and grind out an at-bat. Maybe that's why I'm not uncomfortable moving guys around at times.
"The bottom line is, you go up there, and the game will dictate what kind of at-bat you're supposed to take."
LeMahieu earning more time with hot hitting
DENVER -- Rockies infielder DJ LeMahieu's three-hit, two-double game in Tuesday night's 5-4, 10-inning victory over the D-backs earned him a start at second base Wednesday in the No. 2 spot.
In his first six games since being called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs, LeMahieu sizzled at .462 with two RBIs. Before joining the Rockies, he hit .364 with one home run, eight doubles and five triples at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
LeMahieu, who played shortstop in Colorado Springs but can play second and third, did much of his damage against the Giants and D-backs -- teams he became familiar with while hitting .297 in 81 games with the Rockies last season -- as the regular second baseman.
"Pretty much all the pitchers I've faced so far, I faced last year, so that helps," LeMahieu said. "Getting my swing right the first part of this year was good, and I'm trying to continue what I had going in Triple-A"
LeMahieu was activated after the Rockies designated infielder Reid Brignac for assignment. Now, manager Walt Weiss is using LeMahieu while regular second baseman Josh Rutledge battles through a hitting slump. Rutledge is at .242, but has five home runs and 13 RBIs, as well as five stolen bases in as many attempts. Weiss has said he is willing to ride with Rutledge's current slump because he can be a dynamic player on offense.
"It would be tough to take DJ out of the lineup after the game he had last night," Weiss said. "There are ebbs and flows to the season in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it's with players that get hot and cold, and it's going to happen with everybody."
"You've got to take care of guys when they're struggling, while at the same time keeping other guys involved. You've got to use all the pieces."
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.