Rockies look to rebound

Pat Graham
The Associated Press

DENVER — Troy Tulowitzki benefits by having Carlos Gonzalez in the lineup. Gonzalez certainly benefits from Tulowitzki’s presence, too.

But the Colorado Rockies may not benefit as much as you might think having those two sluggers together in the batting order. A healthy Tulo and CarGo by no means guarantees success, even if the Rockies are banking on bounce-back years from them to end a string of four straight losing seasons.

At least, the numbers seem to indicate as much. Since 2010, the Rockies are just 185-198 (.483 winning percentage) when Gonzalez and Tulowitzki are both in the starting lineup, according to STATS.

Still better than the alternative, though. Colorado is 175-252 (.410) when one or both don’t start.

The takeaway is simple: This powerful tandem needs some help.

Colorado didn’t make any splashy moves over the winter after a 66-96 season that led to sweeping changes in the front office. The biggest moves by new GM Jeff Bridich weren’t to bolster a beleaguered pitching staff, but to bring in veteran catcher Nick Hundley and utility infielder Daniel Descalso.

Bridich believes Tulowitzki and Gonzalez can do more to get this team back on track than any sort of blockbuster deal.

If they stay on the field, that is.

“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re a 90-win team or whatever it is. I’m just getting myself ready to play,” Tulowitzki said. “That’s my goal, keep myself healthy.”

That’s been anything but easy for the smooth-fielding shortstop. Over his career, he’s had stints on the disabled list for a quadriceps tendon tear, lacerated right hand, broken left wrist and a groin injury. Last season, Tulowitzki played only 91 games before undergoing hip surgery.

“I feel great,” said Tulowitzki, who turned 30 in October. “But you guys judge and tell me.”

Like Tulowitzki, Gonzalez also feels fit again. The outfielder was limited to 70 games because of surgery to remove a small tumor in his left index finger and then another on his left knee.

“I’m feeling really good in the outfield, so that’s a really good sign,” Gonzalez said.

No doubt, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez fuel each other on offense. With Tulowitzki in the lineup since 2010, Gonzalez hit .307 with 89 homers spanning 402 games. Without him, Gonzalez’s average was .291 with 30 homers in 185 games, according to STATS research.

And while Tulowitzki’s batting average actually goes up without Gonzalez (.307 to .328), his slugging percentage dips a bit (.559 to .533).

“I think everything will take care of itself — if I play,” Tulowitzki said.

With the NL West vastly improved, the Rockies aren’t exactly in the conversation as contenders. But they do boast Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, along with NL batting champ Justin Morneau and Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado.

“We’re a nobody. That’s OK with us,” Arenado said. “If we stay healthy, we’re going to do some damage.”

Things to know as the Rockies try to get back on track:

TRADE RUMORS: Tulowitzki didn’t pay too much attention to the trade rumors that popped up in the offseason. Should the Rockies fall out of contention early, those rumors could surface again. “I do know that rumors fly and rumors fly at a high rate these days with all the social media that’s going on,” Tulowitzki said.

YOUNG ROTATION: Lefty Jorge De La Rosa is dealing with a nagging groin injury this spring and righty Jhoulys Chacin was recently let go. That could pave the way for top prospects Eddie Butler and Jon Gray to work their way into the rotation. “He’s a talented kid,” manager Walt Weiss said of Gray. “Now it’s just a matter of maturing and knowing he belongs.”

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: The Rockies had the worst road record (21-60) last season and hit almost 100 points lower away from home (.228) than at Coors Field (.322). “Obviously there are some adjustments our hitters have to make, going away from our place,” Weiss said.

GOLDEN INFIELD: Starter Kyle Kendrick certainly appreciates this infield, with Arenado, Tulowitzki and second baseman DJ LeMahieu all having earned a Gold Glove in their career. “The defense is great,” Kendrick said. “You keep the ball down, you get ground balls, you’re going to get outs.”

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