DENVER -- The year began with DJ LeMahieu playing shortstop at Triple-A Colorado Springs with the assignment of proving to the Rockies that he could fill in at shortstop if something happened to Troy Tulowitzki. But LeMahieu has played himself into being the first option at second base.
The year started with Josh Rutledge at second base. But before Tulowitzki suffered a broken rib on his right side on June 13, the Rockies called up LeMahieu and installed him at second. His initial games were dazzling, then he slumped, but now he is displaying a consistent bat.
LeMahieu went into Friday's start against the Giants hitting .287 with one home run and nine RBIs.
"DJ has played well," Weiss said. "His swing is in a good place. He swung the bat very well down at Colorado Springs and it looks like he's found that stroke, especially recently. He's strung a lot of good at-bats together."
Cuddyer extends hit streak to 25 with homer
DENVER -- Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer extended his hit streak to 25 games with power -- a two-run homer in the third inning of Friday night's game with the Giants at Coors Field.
Cuddyer gave the Rockies a 3-0 lead by knocking a 2-0 cutter from Giants starter Barry Zito into the right-field seats. It was Cuddyer's 14th homer of the season, and his sixth during his streak. Wilin Rosario, the next hitter, made it 4-0 with a homer to left field.
Cuddyer's streak is longest in the Majors since Jose Reyes, then with the Marlins, delivered hits in 26 consecutive games from July 13 to Aug. 8, last season. Cuddyer earned the club record on Thursday, when he went 3-for-4 to surpass a 23-game streak by current Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette in 1995.
Manager Walt Weiss has approached the streak with the same day-by-day, low-key approach that Cuddyer has displayed.
"He's still going, so I'll congratulate him when it's all over," Weiss said before Friday night's game. "I'll congratulate him on 57."
The reference, of course, was to Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hit streak in 1941. The record is considered one of the toughest to break in baseball. The National League record belongs to Pete Rose, who hit in 44 straight games with the Reds in 1978.
Cuddyer also owns the club record for consecutive games having reached base safely, 44. It is the longest such streak in the Majors this season.
Going into Friday, Cuddyer was batting .351, second in the National League to the Cardinals' Yadier Molina (.357).
Overall, Cuddyer has hit safely in 50 of his 56 starts this season.
In his second year with the Rockies after spending the first 11 seasons of his career with the Twins, Cuddyer has become an important player to the team, but has not registered nationally in popularity, at least when measured by All-Star voting. He is nowhere near the top among NL outfielders.
"His numbers probably speak louder than anything else, and his value to our club, specifically," Weiss said. "The way he's performed probably speaks volumes. Everybody knows 'Cuddy' that's been around him and has played against him, what a true pro he is, how he shows up every day.
"This year he's been extremely productive. It's a pretty easy case to make, him being in the All-Star Game."
Belisle hoping a clear mind is key to snapping skid
DENVER -- If Rockies slumping right-handed reliever Matt Belisle goes back to the drawing board, it's with an eraser, not chalk.
Belisle gave up Marlon Byrd's game-winning home run in Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Mets and has been touched for 12 earned runs, 14 hits, a home run and four walks in his last 6 2/3 innings, covering seven appearances. The slide is out of character for Belisle, who went into Friday's game with the Giants with the most appearances of any Major League reliever over the last three seasons (267).
In figuring out a solution, Belisle is not going to dissect his own pitch strategy or mechanics. He's trying to clear his mind, not fill it with more information or analysis.
"To try to break this down is going to make things a lot more complicated," Belisle said. "There's nothing wrong with me physically. There's nothing wrong with me mentally. You go back to why some pitches are not being executed consistently, that's for me to figure out on my own.
"In some of the cases, they're some of the same pitches I've gotten away with in the past. So I look at this just as a trough that I'm climbing out of. When I get out of that, here we go."
For much of his time with the Rockies, Belisle has been used in the seventh inning with a lead, but the whole bullpen had to be slightly adjusted for the last 25 games with closer Rafael Betancourt out with a right groin strain. The Rockies activated Betancourt before Friday night's game, so Rex Brothers can go back to his setup role.
But don't expect manager Walt Weiss to move Belisle to a non-pressure role. They've already had to do that with righty Wilton Lopez, whose ability to force ground balls has taken a hiatus.
"With Raffy back, it changes things a little, but Matty is still going to be pitching in meaningful times of the game," Weiss said. "Matty is always willing to take the ball, whenever that is over the course of the game. I don't think it affects him too much. I think he's going to be fine."
There has been a 2-mph drop in his fastball velocity over the past two seasons according to FanGraphs and the Rockies-dedicated Purple Row blog reported that he is using it more often than in the past -- 67.2 percent as opposed to 60.1 percent last season. Belisle insists he is not dealing with an injury, and said he has been experimenting with different patterns, especially against National League West hitters.
He's had fastballs and sliders hit hard when they've been located poorly. Belisle said he has watched video of him executing properly and is trying to repeat that, but he is leaving the deep analysis to others.
"I can throw a ball where I want to," Belisle said. "I can get anybody out at any time. That unwavering belief never wanes with me. My confidence won't be shattered at all. Let's get the schematics right and get that attitude that I know is there.
"I have the confidence that I will get on a great run, have a good season and get to the playoffs and be ready. That's the thing. There's no time to over-analyze. We've got a good club and the division right in front of us with these next games."
Nicasio optioned to make room for Betancourt
DENVER -- When the Rockies reached a crossroads with right-hander Juan Nicasio, they decided to maintain the path of developing him as a starting pitcher. For Nicasio, that means he must hit the road to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
The Rockies optioned Nicasio on Friday to make room for closer Rafael Betancourt, and will have to make another decision Sunday afternoon, when left-hander Drew Pomeranz is called up from Colorado Springs to start against the Giants.
The Rockies briefly discussed moving the hard-throwing Nicasio (4-4, 5.31 ERA) to the bullpen, where he won't have to face hitters as often and his secondary pitches aren't in play as often. But the Rockies have little starting pitching depth.
"For his development, it's important that he's making starts and maintaining his arm strength," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "It's tough to develop starters. It's more beneficial to him and us if he's down there making starts."
Until his last two starts, when he gave up runs early, he displayed a pattern of bordering on domination in early innings, but faltering in the fifth or sixth. He did not throw a pitch in the seventh in any of his 16 starts. Throughout the season, the Rockies have noted that he skipped Triple-A before debuting in 2011 and missed large blocks of 2011 and 2012 because of injuries. Now they've decided to give him the Triple-A experience he missed.
Can the remedial education work? Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood would be tripped up at various points of games last season because of command issues and was sent to Colorado Springs to start this season. Now he is 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA. Although Nicasio is bigger than Chatwood, both are considered power pitchers.
Last season, Chatwood wanted to throw harder and faster when in trouble. Nicasio has been going the opposite way. Either way was a path to trouble, pitching coach Jim Wright said.
"His [Nicasio's] pitches are in order, his speed differences are in order, now it's a matter of competing with them," Wright said. "He was trying to do too much with them. Instead of taking the slider he's learned, the harder slider, he was trying to make three or four pitches out of it. Just that one slider where it's supposed to go is going to be good enough.
"He's a power pitcher, and he needs to pitch like that, instead of trying to finesse his way through the lineup. You end up on that emotional rollercoaster, worrying about things you can't control. You're over-conscious. You try to get tricky. You give the hitters too much credit."
Wright said Nicasio, 26, will benefit from completing his assignment in a less-pressured atmosphere. He'll be removed from games if they're going especially bad, but most of the time he'll get 100 pitches to work on his consistency. Wright thinks Nicasio is not far from being ready to pitch again in the Majors.
Weiss says Pomeranz will start Sunday
DENVER -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss announced officially that left-hander Drew Pomeranz will be called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs to start Sunday afternoon against the Giants.
Pomeranz will take the rotation spot of Juan Nicasio (4-4, 5.31 ERA), who was sent down to Colorado Springs on Friday. Nicasio was replaced on the active roster by closer Rafael Betancourt, who is returning from a right groin strain, so the Rockies will have to make another move Sunday.
Pomeranz is 8-1 with a 4.20 ERA in 15 starts for the Sky Sox, but the last two starts have earned him the promotion. After having his effectiveness muted by high pitch counts early in the year, Pomeranz held Las Vegas to no runs and three hits with 11 ground-ball outs in 6 2/3 innings on June 16, then held Tacoma to two runs and five hits in seven innings on June 21.
It represents another chance for Pomeranz, 24, to meet the high expectations that came with being acquired from the Indians for former Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011. Pomeranz went 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA in 22 big league starts last year. He also had nine starts at Colorado Springs.
"He's put together a nice year down there and the last couple of times out have been real good," Weiss said. "Looks like he's been efficient. He's got a good arm. There's deception, some finish to his stuff. He's done a nice job ironing some things out the first months down there."
Rox scratch Fowler from lineup due to hand injury
DENVER -- The Rockies aborted an attempt to return switch-hitting outfielder Dexter Fowler to the lineup Friday night against Giants left-hander Barry Zito. The belief was batting from the right side would be easier on Fowler's ailing right hand and wrist, but the Rockies scratched him just before first pitch.
Fowler was hit on the right ring finger by a pitch from the Nationals' Ross Detwiler on June 13, and was in and out of the lineup throughout the Rockies' nine-game road trip. He went 0-for-4 Monday, reported pain in the right wrist, and hasn't played since. He went 3-for-19 while playing five games during a road trip that saw the Rockies go 2-7.
Two X-rays on his finger and an MRI this week on his wrist have not revealed structural damage.
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.