Notes: Aurilia sharp after injury

Notes: Aurilia sharp after injury

DENVER -- Don't try this at home. Rich Aurilia made his first 25 starts for his new team playing shortstop for the Reds and hitting an anemic .198. In his last five games he is hitting .300, with four starts at second and one at third.

Between starts 25 and 26, Aurilia made a major adjustment, though it wasn't intentional. He strained his left hamstring and missed 17 games while recovering on the disabled list. His productive return is welcome to a struggling team who desperately needs his thump in the lineup and his finesse in the field. But there's got to be an easier way to turn your game around.

"When I went down, my average was still relatively low compared to what I'm used to, but even before I went down I felt like I was swinging the ball well. I just wasn't having any luck. Balls were going right at people. It's just a part of the game you need to go through. Eventually things will even out. Knock on wood, I feel pretty good right now. I'm seeing the ball well. Hopefully I'll continue to do that."

Apparently he sees the ball even better in the rarified air of Coors Field, where he hit .417 (5-for-12) in the series while homering in consecutive games for the first time in over two years, driving in five and scoring three. Maybe that's the easy part -- schedule all rehab assignments for a three-day tune up at Coors Field, where lost swings go to be found.

"He's always had pretty good numbers here in Denver," said manager Dave Miley of Aurilia's torrid tear in the Mile-High City, where he owns a .303 (59-for-195) career average with 14 homers and 42 RBIs. "He came up with some big hits for us and helped us out on defense. He's been swinging the bat well."

Aurilia isn't entirely sold on the popular theory that his resurgence owes something to the mile-high magic.

"I'll agree, but for a different reason," he said. "I've played a lot of games here in my career. To come to a place where you've played a lot and you're comfortable, it's just a comfort zone. It's nice that I can come in here and feel good."

The same goes for his power swing, which he credits to feeling comfortable at the plate and finding a rhythm.

The odd element in all this is that Aurilia's comfort level has increased at the same time that his challenge-quotient has risen in the field. He entered the season as an All-Star shortstop, with 1,027 games at the position while logging just 47 games combined at second and third and one each at first and DH.

But he returned from the DL with the task of playing second and third, essentially terra incognita, thanks to Felipe Lopez's seizing the shortstop role in Aurilia's absence, hitting .306 with eight homers and 25 RBIs, setting the league standard for slugging shortstops.

But while other hitters can be distracted by the challenge of fielding a new position, Aurilia found it the perfect tonic for his struggling swing, sending him into an accidentally induced state of relaxation at the plate.

"Playing a different position means more of my focus is on defense," Aurilia explained. "When I play shortstop, I don't need to think about it. It's all second nature. When I play second or third, I know what I need to do, but there's certain things I need to think about before I do them out there, because I'm not used to playing out there. So maybe it takes away from thinking about my offense or worrying about my offense, so it might help me."

So to review, for any other struggling sluggers, the Aurilia plan can put you back in stride in three simple steps: 1) strain your hamstring and sit down for two weeks; 2) take up a new position in the field; and 3) spend a relaxing Rocky Mountain weekend in the comfortable confines of Coors Field.

There's got to be an easier way, but easy is over-rated, and the numbers don't lie.

Shots in the arms: Several of the players on the DL continue to make progress as they rehabilitate from injuries in anticipation of rejoining the team:

• Luke Hudson made a start Saturday for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts, throwing approximately 95 pitches without complaint, according to head trainer Mark Mann.

• Willy Mo Pena was 1-for-4 with a double for the Triple-A Louisville Bats Sunday, back in center field after a day at DH.

• "Paul Wilson [injured right shoulder] is going to throw some catch at Great American Ballpark [Monday] for the first time in a number of days and see how he feels," said Mann of the right-handed pitcher. "He's continuing his rehab back in Cincinnati."

• Additionally, right-handed pitcher Ben Weber saw a neurosurgeon in Cincinnati regarding his bulging disc in the cervical spine. The team is coordinating a visit to another local neurosurgeon for a second opinion.

"The issue is how to proceed as far as treatment for him, because he has been throwing off the mound," Mann said. "He doesn't feel comfortable with the way he feels currently in throwing competitively in a game.

"I think it's both mental and physical," Mann added. "Ben wants the peace of mind more than anything else, that by going out there and pitching competitively he's not going to make things worse."

Down on the farm: Jeriome Robertson went 7 2/3 innings in the Bats' loss to Syracuse on Saturday night. Robertson let in three runs on ten hits for a quality start, but the Bats couldn't get their lumber heated up, managing just six hits in the 3-0 shut out. ... The Lookouts were also shut out, losing 4-0 to Jacksonville despite a strong showing from the rehabbing Luke Hudson, who went 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits. Second baseman Kevin Howard had two of the Lookouts' five hits. ... Continuing an organizational trend, the Class A Sarasota Reds were shut out 1-0 at Fort Myers Saturday night in a rain-shortened game. Jim Paduch pitched five innings for a complete game, allowing one run on two hits. ... The Class A Dayton Dragons got the organization's sole win Saturday, besting Burlington by a score of 14-7. Right fielder Ben Himes, third baseman Jeremiah Piepkorn, first baseman Jesse Gutierrez, and center fielder Cody Strait all had three hits.

On deck: After an off day Monday, Ramon Ortiz (1-4, 5.23 ERA) takes the mound against the Devil Rays at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.