Rox' shortstop battle not yet decided

Rox' shortstop battle not yet decided

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has stayed inconspicuous in the Rockies' Hi Corbett Field clubhouse, even though he dresses in the middle section of the room and seems front-and-center in the competition for a starting middle infield position.

"I'm maybe not as quiet as I've been around here," Tulowitzki said. "I'm just kind of feeling things out. I think guys respect that, and know I work hard."

Until he gains clout, Tulowitzki will have to speak through his performance. With a .361 batting average through Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the Cubs, Tulowitzki has the statistical advantage over Clint Barmes, the Opening Day shortstop the past two seasons.

Not far from Tulowitzki dresses Barmes, who also has a clear-view locker position. Barmes has won over his teammates with his quiet manner. But he knows his bat has to speak louder than his current .258 spring average if he is to hold off Tulowitzki and hold onto his spot on the club.

"I've had good days, I've had bad days, days when I've tried to do a little more than I should," Barmes said. "I know there's a lot of work I still have to do. I've got to just let it happen."

All manager Clint Hurdle has said is the Rockies' staff members have "our ideas." That means Barmes still has time to turn hot, the way he did while solidifying his starting job in the final days of Spring Training in 2005. Until a decision is made, the two walk softly in the clubhouse.

That's especially true of Tulowitzki, who realizes that Barmes is a respected player on the club.

"'Barmie' is a well-liked guy, a good guy, and I like him a lot," said Tulowitzki, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI double against the Cubs. "But it's a job. If I'm fortunate enough to win the job, I think there are guys who will respect me as a baseball player and be on my side come gametime.

"I'm just a young, hardworking guy. Some older guys on the team have made some comments about that, and I've appreciated them very much."

Barmes said, "If he has a great spring and he wins the job, he wins the job. There's nothing I can do about that other than say I could've done better. I don't hold that against him, and I don't wish him bad by any means. That's what this game is all about, competition. That's why I've played from 6 years old."

There is writing, maybe not on the wall where the lineup card is posted, but in papers and on the Web.

With Tulowitzki's performance justifying his status as the Rockies' No. 1 pick in 2005, Barmes' name is coming up in reports of possible trades. Either can be sent to Triple-A without being exposed to other clubs.

Tulowitzki, 22, who was called up from Double-A Tulsa last Aug. 29 and batted .240 while starting 23 of the Rockies'last 31 games, has certainly earned his current status.

On Tuesday against Cubs starter Ted Lilly, Tulowitzki went the opposite way for a single in his first at-bat, crushed a double to center and lined hard to third base. The performance and the whole spring is a continuation of Tulowitzki's work last year at Tulsa (.291) and in the Arizona Fall League, when he batted .329 and was tabbed the league's top prospect.

Tulowitzki said there was nothing wrong with his swing during his big-league trial. He was simply trying too hard and swinging at bad pitches. That has changed.

"In the Fall League I was a lot more relaxed," he said. "I felt like I was a Major Leaguer going down there playing with some Minor League guys. I didn't change anything stance-wise or the position of my hands. What I've been doing, I've been doing for a long time and doing it successfully."

Barmes, 28, continues to battle the urge to change his approach when the hits don't come. Barmes hasn't been right since suffering a collarbone injury in early June 2005, when he had a .329 batting average and was a Rookie of the Year frontrunner. Last year, he hit .220.

But thus far this spring, Barmes has stayed close to the game plan he developed over the winter.

"To win a spot, I've got to be more consistent at controlling my emotions," Barmes said. "I've had my moments when I go up and slow everything down, and I have good results -- not necessarily hits but good results as far as hitting the ball solid. So yeah, it's there. I've done it before."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.