PHOENIX -- Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu chalked up the first two games of the season to being in the wrong lineup spot at the wrong time.
With starters Jorge De La Rosa (Monday) and Chad Bettis (Tuesday) pitching their way off the mound early, a comfortable Rockies lead turned into a tight game. In each case, LeMahieu, in the eighth spot in the order, was the final out of the previous inning. Thinking he would need offense in the next half-inning, manager Walt Weiss double-switched and replaced LeMahieu with Cristhian Adames.
The issue often doesn't come up when a starter lasts 4 2/3 innings the way De La Rosa did in the opener and 5 1/3 like Bettis. In many of those cases, the team is far behind, so it's just a matter of using the bullpen to get through the game with as little damage as possible. It was a problem in the first two games, however, because the Rockies had put up big run totals against Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller and had leads, so they didn't want to try to regain the momentum in an inning leading off with a reliever. Weiss also was able to keep Ben Paulsen (Monday) and Mark Reynolds (Tuesday) on the bench for a late pinch-hit opportunity.
But the messy strategy cost Colorado the use of LeMahieu, who went 4-for-6 with three RBIs in the two games, including a two-run home run Tuesday.
"It's just how the game played out," LeMahieu said. "Both nights, we had to go to the bullpen a little earlier than we were planning on, and that's how it worked out.
"I just don't think that's how Walt would plan it out. It just made more sense at that time of the game."
It also tends to happen to a No. 8 hitter, which is something LeMahieu performed as effectively as anyone in the Majors last year. The saving grace, however, is Weiss tends to change his lineup. LeMahieu, for example, hit leadoff in Wednesday afternoon's series finale against Arizona, and he homered in his second at-bat.
LeMahieu, though, is in a good place, offensively, as his home run to left-center off Miller attested.
"That's the best I've hit a ball in a while, so I felt good," LeMahieu said.
The positive LeMahieu drew was the offensive performance against two highly regarded pitchers.
"We've had a couple really big innings and really good at-bats in between," he said. "It's a good sign."
Gray getting closer
Right-hander Jon Gray (abdominal strain) said he is in position for a rehab start of 70-75 pitches on Friday, although it isn't clear where. He said it's possible he will start for Class A Modesto at Stockton, which would offer dependable weather. Nothing is official, Gray said, but he could be in for two rehab starts.