Notes: Matsui making strides at plate

Notes: Matsui making strides at plate

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rockies second baseman Kazuo Matsui said playing against Mariners star and fellow Japanese standout Ichiro Suzuki on Wednesday wasn't necessarily special, but said through his translator, "It's fun to play."

The Rockies are happy to see Matsui play against anyone. After sitting out of Cactus League games since March 12 with a left foot strain, Matsui started at second base and went 3-for-4 with a steal.

In nine official Spring Training games, Matsui has batted .321 (9-of-28) with a double and a triple, and is 4-for-4 on steal attempts. The switch-hitting Matsui will have the majority of the starts at second base, with right-handed-hitting Jamey Carroll starting when Matsui doesn't play.

The foot was no issue for Matsui when he stole second against Mariners pitcher Miguel Batista and catcher Jamie Burke in the first inning. He also sprinted for an infield single in the third.

Matsui, however, is not scheduled for the trip to play the Brewers on Thursday afternoon and will work out at Hi Corbett Field instead.

"The ice and the treatment are getting to be a lot less [frequent] than before," Matsui said. "I think the manager, Clint Hurdle, cares about my foot, so I think he is [scheduling] a rest for me."

Matsui and Suzuki met just one previous time, when Suzuki went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs for the Mariners against the Mets on June 17, 2005. Matsui entered in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement.

Suzuki said of Matsui, also through a translator, "He's the only position player in Japan that I noted to myself (when both played in Japan). He was in my mind as a rival, someone I respected as an opposing player."

Martin struggles: Hurdle has said the Rockies made a commitment to left-hander Tom Martin when they signed him for $800,000. But they haven't seen Martin justify it this spring.

On Wednesday, Hurdle removed Josh Fogg with two out in the sixth and the Rockies holding a one-run lead to match Martin with left-handed-hitting Raul Ibanez, who pulled Martin's high-and-inside fastball for a home run. Martin gave up two runs in 2/3 of an inning.

"He has to get the ball on his glove side when he needs to -- it's his fastball command more than anything else," Hurdle said.

Martin's glove side was facing the outside part of the plate against Ibanez.

Non-roster lefty Mike Gallo gave up a run in his inning. Left-handed hitting leadoff man Jeremy Reed doubled and scored on a fielder's choice, but Gallo retired the following three batters with one strikeout.

Do run, run; but run smartly: Hurdle said regular leadoff man Willy Taveras will have the "green light," although he will be shut down in some situations based on the score of the game. The Rockies are running more offensive plays as spring progresses. One of them didn't work Wednesday.

The Rockies tried a delayed double-steal in the third inning with Ryan Spilborghs at third base and Clint Barmes at first. But Barmes was thrown out and the inning ended.

"All we had to do is stop [in the basepath between first and second] and the run scores easily at home, but we slid into an out," Hurdle said. "That defeats the purpose of running with two outs. That's just one of the things I'll bring to their attention -- just talk about. We put a number of things in today, and we'll continue to do so."

Challenges continue: The Rockies are deciding among left-handed hitters John Mabry and Alexis Gomez and the right-handed-hitting Spilborghs for the 25th roster spot. Mabry has played more positions and has the most experience, but Gomez and Spilborghs have played well this spring.

Gomez entered as a replacement left fielder and went 1-for-2 to leave his spring average at .357 in 17 games. Spilborghs, after missing recent days with a slight left ankle sprain, started in left field and later moved to center, going 1-for-3 to leave his average at .429 in 10 games.

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