DENVER -- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario looked to be having a carefree Monday afternoon, shuffling around for ground balls at first base and leaping for line drives at third. But before he had a little fun, he listened as his bosses in no uncertain terms told him he needs to improve at job one.After five passed balls during the first two games of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Phillies this past weekend -- including a mind-boggling four during a 3-2 loss in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader -- manager Jim Tracy benched Rosario for Monday's opener of a three-game set with the Giants. Passed balls were part of game-winning rallies in both games Rosario caught against the Phillies. "The message has to be very clear, and that is you can't catch like that," Tracy said. "It put us in a bad spot in two games that we had chances to win. "We've got to be better than this. It won't work moving forward. It's got to get a helluva lot better. It's not fair to the club. It's not fair to the pitching staff. It's not fair for pitchers who want to bury a breaking ball with two strikes. I've seen a couple of them get left up in the zone, and there's part of me that's wondering why." Rosario's hiatus, however, was short-lived, as Ramon Hernandez sustained a left hamstring strain while heading to first on his ground-rule double in the fourth inning. Rosario entered as a pinch-runner and took over behind the dish.
Rosario, 23, has 23 home runs, which leads National League catchers and is two behind Todd Helton's 1998 club rookie record and one behind Troy Tulowitzki's 2007 debut. But he also leads the Majors with 19 passed balls, and he is not asked to handle a knuckleball pitcher. The Mets' Josh Thole, who catches knuckleball master R.A. Dickey, is second with 16 passed balls.Sunday's passed balls came on low balls over the plate -- pitches that simply must be handled. Before hanging out at the infield corners during batting practice, Rosario spent time going over fundamentals with catching instructor Jerry Weinstein and veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez, who started against the Giants. Rosario accepted the criticism. "Right now, I'm trying to find a way to catch it better," Rosario said. "That was one of the toughest games I've ever had in the Major Leagues. We're working. That game showed that you need to work every day because sometimes you find something new." However, Rosario admitted there was an extenuating circumstance. The light standards at Citizens Bank Park extend into the infield and create some odd light and dark spots. A club official indicated Sunday that Rosario had not complained about the late-afternoon shadows on Sunday. However, Rosario admitted Monday he had difficulty seeing, not to mention some bad luck. "The shadows were going away and coming back," Rosario said. "I wore sunglasses but in the eighth I took them off. But as soon as the umpire said, 'Play ball,' the shadows would go and the sun would come back. You can laugh, but it's tough. I didn't know what I was doing and I couldn't control the situation. "But it happened. I learned about it and now I can keep working." Passed balls weren't a problem for the Phillies, who played in the same shadows. And unsure fundamentals have been the bane of Rosario's catching all year. Add to that a brief period where his movement was compromised because he was playing through a left ankle sprain, and it has been a shaky defensive season. It's time now for Rosario to make corrections and maintain a level of confidence that hasn't wavered despite the difficult times. "You certainly don't want this to come to the point where it's a mental issue, where you create a problem for yourself," Tracy said.
Outman looks to learn from struggles
DENVER -- Rockies left-hander Josh Outman needed to find his delivery, no matter where he pitched.The Rockies sent Outman to the Minors just before the All-Star break, but rather than to Triple-A Colorado Springs, they sent him to Double-A Tulsa. There was some shock at going to a level from which he graduated four years ago in the Athletics organization. There was also just plain old confusion over what was so wrong. But Outman slowly found his form. His final regular-season start for Tulsa was nearly a no-hitter, and he finished the Drillers' campaign 2-5 with a 3.71 ERA. Outman also threw seven scoreless innings, allowing only two hits in a playoff victory. As a result, the Rockies recalled Outman for bullpen work over the final weeks of the season. "It took an adjustment emotionally," said Outman, 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA in 15 games, including seven starts, with the Rockies before being sent to Tulsa. "You don't have the crowds down there. I had to get the right frame of mind to go out and compete. I wanted to go out and win, but I also wanted to make sure I was fixing the things I needed to fix and not lose sight of my main purpose for me being there" Outman said he and Tulsa pitching coach Dave Schuler figured that his hands were breaking late, which caused him to speed up his delivery. Once that problem was corrected, Outman was on his way back. He originally believed he'd be brought to Triple-A after the All-Star break, but it dawned on him it didn't matter where he was pitching as long as he corrected his flaws. Manager Jim Tracy said he'd like to see Outman in a left-on-left relief role. "The opportunity to compare and contrast where he was with where he's at right now is very intriguing to me," Tracy said. Trained as a starter, Outman struggled in bullpen duty when he was in the Majors. But he has learned that any big league role would be good in the future. "I know I'm going to come in next spring in shape and ready as a starter, and if that's where I start, great," Outman said. "But if I end up a somewhere else, I just want to do what's best for myself and the team together. Whatever the role is, I just want to be fully on board with it, and make sure it's the best thing for myself and the organization."
Tulo back with Rockies; return uncertain
DENVER -- With Double-A Tulsa eliminated from the Texas League playoffs after its first-round series with Springfield, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki returned to Denver Monday to have his progress in returning from a left groin injury evaluated by team trainers.What isn't clear is how much progress Tulowitzki has made. Tulowitzki, who hasn't played for the Rockies since late May and underwent surgery to remove scar tissue from the groin area in June, played nine innings Sunday for Tulsa. Tulowitzki has been feeling good physically but is still developing confidence that he can move at full speed without risking re-injury. Rockies manager Jim Tracy still hopes to have Tulowitzki return before the Major League season is done, but only if Tulowitzki and the medical staff fully believe that he is no longer at risk. "I cannot tell you guys any definitive date," Tracy said before Monday night's game against the National League West-leading Giants. "There are still some things that he's trying to work out, and I mean that physically. That being the case, I do not feel like we're sending this guy out in a Major League game less than himself because of the risk of something else happening and there being another visit into my office and them telling me it will be well into 2013 or late in 2013 before we see him again. "We have [the Giants] that we're playing seven out of the next 10 days. Anybody that's had the experience to know what it's like to win a divisional championship or a Wild Card championship, there is a high level of intensity involved in these games, one club trying to get there, the other club trying to spoil the effort. Thinking you may have a player out there that may not be quite up to par, I don't think that's a real good place to go."
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.