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ROCKIES TAKE BREAK FROM FRUSTRATION TO ... Let the sun shine


ROCKIES TAKE BREAK FROM FRUSTRATION TO ... Let the sun shine
For three weeks, fans have waited for this as the Rockies receded into the division cellar. For three weeks, they watched maddening inconsistency undermine victories and slowly threaten the job security of the manager.

But for one sun-splashed Wednesday at Coors Field, the picture came into focus, four of the most critical players peeking their heads out of the darkness in the Rockies' 7-5 win over San Diego.

"We had guys contribute who hadn't been doing too much," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "It's huge."

Tulowitzki, Aaron Cook, Chris Iannetta, Huston Street - remember them?

When players were leisurely lowering their golf handicaps in spring training, that foursome represented a primary reason for the Rockies' optimism. Cook was coming off an all-star season, and bent on repeating his performance. Tulowitzki was healthy again, driven to relive his 2007 glory. Iannetta, fueled by a strong showing at the World Baseball Classic, was poised to become one of the National League's top catchers. And Street, who has gone from former closer in Oakland to current closer again, was motivated to stabilize the bullpen.

Then came April.

It has been equally disappointing and perplexing, the Rockies' 8-12 record a testimonial to the struggles of key players.

Cook, the ace of the staff, entered Wednesday's series finale without a win. That's a big reason the rotation owns a 5.52 ERA. Cook began the season by overstriding in his delivery, sabotaging his sinker. After making slight progress against the Dodgers, Cook began eating up asphalt on his road to recovery Wednesday. He worked seven innings and allowed three runs to pick up the victory.

"I can't overstate it. He's our guy, our ace, we need him out there pitching big games," manager Clint Hurdle said.

The right-hander still doesn't possess last year's bowling ball sinker, but he's pitching smarter. That was evident in the sixth inning when he faced Brian Giles, who represented the go-ahead run. Giles has torched Cook in the past. But after throwing him five consecutive sinkers, Cook wisely laddered a straight four-seam fastball to get a strikeout.

"No one was more disappointed when I wasn't giving our team a chance to win in my first three starts," Cook said. "I felt like my old self out there."

Tulowitzki has shown a knack for the big hit in his young career. At this point of the season, however, he simply wants to start. Back in the lineup for the first time since Sunday, the shortstop recorded his first multihit game of the season. Hurdle quietly identified Tulowitzki as the team leader in spring training but benched him after an 0-for-19 slump.

"It seems like I have to make it hard on myself," Tulowitzki said of his career .193 average in April. "I feel like when I am involved we play better. So hopefully, I can continue to swing the bat well and play solid defense."

Iannetta credited his performance last April for triggering his breakthrough season. There was no crisis of confidence when he struggled this month, though his frustration mounted. He rapped two hits Wednesday, a fourth of his yearly total, including a second-inning home run that landed on the left-field concourse and bounced into the grilled chicken concession stand.

"We need Iannetta and Tulo as part of the offense," Hurdle said. "If you wait too long and dig yourself too big a hole, you end up shoveling all year. Nobody wants to shovel."

In a moment of candor, Hurdle expanded on his team's problems during the same response. The offense, he made clear, isn't the lone problem.

"In the bullpen, you have a lot of guys out there where you don't know what you are going to get. That's got to end," Hurdle said.

It wouldn't hurt to identify a guy who could handle the ninth inning. Street has played lost and found with the closer role, and he is expected to resume the duty again in place of Manuel Corpas after striking out the side Wednesday.

"Street looked really good. Hopefully he stays there. That will definitely make our chances better going into the ninth inning," Tulowitzki said. "I don't really care who's doing it as long as we find a way to get wins."

Troy E. Renck: 303-954-1301 or trenck@denverpost.com -------------- Between Rocks and a hard place

It has been a difficult first month for four key Rockies who played a critical role in Wednesday's 7-5 victory. The Post's Troy E. Renck examines how this April compares to April 2008:

....'08 avg.....'09 avg..... '08 HR....'09 HR.... '08 RBI....'09 RBI

C Chris Iannetta.... .324.... .174.... 2.... 3.... 6....5

SS Troy Tulowitzki.... .152.... .200.... 1.... 3.... 11....5

....'08 rec./saves....'09 rec./saves.... '08 ERA....'09 ERA

RHP Aaron Cook.... 4-1....1-1....2.41.... 7.11

RHP Huston Street.... 8....2....2.53.... 6.10


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 30, 2009

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