DENVER -- Left-hander Drew Pomeranz made 22 starts last season for a struggling Rockies rotation that went to him because of injuries and generally poor pitching. An unpolished and not totally confident Pomeranz went 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA.
Now Pomeranz, who will be activated to start against the Giants on Sunday afternoon, believes he truly belongs, and he's pitching on a much better staff. He didn't make the rotation out of Spring Training, but earned a promotion by going 8-1 with a 4.20 ERA in 85 2/3 innings at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
The Rockies entered Saturday 40-41, but more important they were three games behind the National League West-leading D-backs. With Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood all pitching well, Pomeranz is going to have to prove he can uphold his end of the bargain.
"I'm not going to lie, I was frustrated that I had to go down in the first place, but then I realized I needed to go refine some things," Pomeranz said. "I've started pitching, rather than just going out there and throwing. I feel a lot better.
"I feel a lot more confident personally, and these guys are throwing well up here. It's different this year."
Hurt thumb causes De La Rosa to exit early
DENVER -- Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa exited Saturday's 2-1 victory over the Giants at the start of the seventh inning with a bruised left thumb -- an injury that has been an issue through his last three starts, even though those games have been stellar.
De La Rosa held the Giants to one run and six hits, struck out four against one walk and threw 86 pitches. He held the Giants scoreless until Buster Posey knocked an RBI double to left field in the sixth inning to tie the score.
But De La Rosa was removed after having the thumb attended to by the training staff just before the seventh began.
De La Rosa incurred the injury June 17 in the fourth of his seven scoreless, one-hit innings in a no-decision against the Blue Jays. It hurt throughout last Sunday's win at Washington, when he pitched in pain for six innings but held the Nationals to two runs and seven hits in six innings of a 7-6 victory.
Once again, the thumb hurt Saturday. De La Rosa said the pain intensified in the second inning when he bunted and the force of Matt Cain's pitch bent back his thumb. Nonetheless, De La Rosa and manager Walt Weiss each said they don't expect the injury to affect his next start.
"I will do everything for this team," said De La Rosa, who has said the issue arose in Toronto because of the force of his two-seam fastball -- a pitch he added this year. "If I can throw the ball, I will be out there."
This is not the first time De La Rosa has dealt with an issue on his pitching hand this year.
In starts against the Padres on June 7 and the Nationals on June 12, De La Rosa dealt with a cut on his middle finger and lasted just five innings and 5 1/3 innings, respectively. He gave up a total of 15 hits and seven earned runs and lost the latter start.
Any injury issue with De La Rosa raises concern.
De La Rosa is 8-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 17 starts and is one of the keys to the rotation. The fact he was limited to three starts last year because of a longer-than-expected recovery from a June 2011 Tommy John surgery on the left elbow was one of the reasons the Rockies' rotation struggled and the team lost a club-record 98 games.
Weiss commended De La Rosa for pitching with aplomb despite the issues.
"Jorge threw well again, and he's been really good for us," Weiss said. "He went out there again today and shut down a really good offensive club, just like Jhoulys [Chacin] did last night [in a 4-1 victory].
"He's been really impressive, especially considering the time he's missed in the last year and a half."
Cuddyer wastes no time upping hit streak to 26
DENVER -- Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer extended his hit streak to 26 games Saturday with a two-out RBI single in the first inning against Giants starter Matt Cain.
Cuddyer's streak, which started May 28, is the Majors' longest such run since Jose Reyes hit in 26 consecutive contests last year with the Marlins. The hit drove in Corey Dickerson, who led off the bottom of the first with a double and moved to third on DJ LeMahieu's sacrifice bunt.
Also, Cuddyer reached in his club-record 45th straight game. He entered Saturday with a .347 batting average -- tied with injured teammate Troy Tulowitzki for second in the National League and trailing only the .357 posted by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
It's production the Rockies expected last year, but didn't get -- mainly because of injury.
The Rockies signed Cuddyer before last season for offensive production and leadership, after Cuddyer had been with the Twins for 11 seasons. Cuddyer was making the adjustment to the National League when he suffered an oblique injury late in the season and finished the year inactive. His .260 batting average in 101 games suggested he was adjusting to the new league. But his 16 home runs and 48 extra-base hits were a preview of what type of hitter he could be in the NL once he completed the adjustment.
During his current streak, Cuddyer has six home runs, five doubles and 18 RBIs.
Cuddyer's 45 straight games reaching base is the longest such streak in the Majors since the Orioles' Kevin Millar reached in 52 straight June 20-Aug. 25, 2007.
Rockies close to disabled-list decision on Fowler
DENVER -- The Rockies will have to decide soon whether to place center fielder Dexter Fowler on the 15-day disabled list because of his continued right wrist issues.
Fowler (.291, 10 homers, 26 RBIs in 70 games) hasn't played since going 0-for-4 and hurting the wrist on a swing Tuesday at Boston. Before then, Fowler was dealing with pain from having been hit on the right ring finger with a pitch earlier in the month. An MRI on the wrist revealed no structural damage but a small amount of fluid. Two earlier X-rays on the finger did not reveal a break.
"He's still day to day right now," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "There is a little bit of an improvement. The hand is tricky in this game. You take one swing and you can take a few steps back. We are going to try and let it calm down. We will give it another day or two and take it from there."
Weiss said he hopes Monday's day off will give Fowler time to heal, and he'll have to be able to play Tuesday or else he will go on the disabled list. But there's also the possibility the Rockies will make a decision by Sunday, since his injury leaves Weiss' bench options limited Saturday and Sunday in National League West games against the Giants.
If Fowler doesn't play, the Rockies can backdate his disabled-list placement Wednesday. If he is used Saturday or Sunday and then placed on the DL, the move can't be backdated.
"It's on the same hand, so it's tough to say if he's compensating for the finger and putting himself in a bad position [with the wrist]," Weiss said.
Fowler's swing has been compromised when in the lineup, and Friday night he was supposed to start but was scratched just before first pitch. Fowler received treatment Saturday. Corey Dickerson assumed Fowler's normal duties, starting in center field and leading off, Saturday against the Giants.
Tulo eager to be cleared for more rehab work
DENVER -- Dripping with sweat and brimming with hope, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki came off the field after taking ground balls Saturday morning and said he is ready to increase the intensity of his rehab from a broken rib -- if cleared by the team's training and medical staffs.
To move closer to that point, Tulowitzki took about 20 swings, some off the tee and some short-toss, in the batting cage Saturday afternoon.
Saturday morning marked the first time Tulowitzki took grounders off the bat. Friday afternoon, he took some rolled to him from a short distance. The movement and throwing didn't cause any major problems. Tulowitzki also planned to take a limited number of swings off the tee Saturday. On Friday, he felt some pressure in his ribs while taking 10 swings, but Saturday he was able to increase the activity.
"It went well -- it was not intense or anything but it was going through the motions and getting a feel for it," Tulowitzki said. "I wasn't letting it go, but there was nothing that was bothering me. It was a step in the right direction."
Tulowitzki, who was injured June 13 while diving for a ground ball, is faithfully reporting how he feels to the training staff. The next hurdle will be clearance from doctors. The results of a yet-to-be-scheduled MRI will determine when that clearance comes.
"Believe me, I've been bugging them about it more than you guys have been bugging them about it," said Tulowitzki, who going into Saturday's play was tied with teammate Michael Cuddyer for second in the National League in hitting at .347 and was leading the league in slugging percentage at .635.
"There's kind of a plan to this thing, how they're going to attack it. Since day one of this year, I've listened to them. But I feel good. I have no problems defensively throwing and moving around. The big thing is my legs feel good. I've missed a lot of time, so my legs feel fresh."
Leg muscle injuries have derailed Tulowitzki in the past. A right groin injury last year required surgery in June, and he missed the rest of the season. The Rockies have monitored Tulowitzki's activity to prevent recurrence of those injuries, and they're applying the same caution to his rehab from the rib injury.
"Tulo looks great," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "Defensively there are no issues. He feels it a little bit on certain throws but he looks great moving around out there. I think he's supposed to get another MRI here shortly and that'll tell us the plan of action."
Nearing return, Escalona to work on going long
DENVER -- Rockies right-handed relief pitcher Edgmer Escalona said he reached 97 mph on some of his fastballs Friday night in his first, and possibly only, injury rehab appearance at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Escalona, who hasn't pitched since June 9 because of right elbow inflammation, struck out two and gave up one hit in 1 1/3 innings in Colorado Springs' 4-2 victory over Tucson.
"I feel like it's the first day of the season; I feel like it's April," Escalona said. "I felt comfortable, threw a lot of strikes and threw very hard. The important thing is I threw strikes, but it's also important that my arm felt good."
Manager Walt Weiss said he would talk with pitching coach Jim Wright to decide whether Escalona needs another rehab appearance.
Escalona will return to his middle relief role, which means he can be called upon to pitch multiple innings. Weiss said he doesn't want to extend Escalona beyond one inning initially, but wants to be able to do that soon. Escalona was more of a one-inning reliever in the past and prefers that, and he said he will have to learn to maintain health and effectiveness. He said he will work harder on cardiovascular fitness and proper eating.
"I don't know what I have to do, but I have to do something," Escalona said. "For me, I feel more comfortable as a short reliever, one inning. That's what I've been doing all my life. Now I'm doing two innings."
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.