Rockies expect turnaround for Rutledge

Rockies expect turnaround for Rutledge

DENVER -- Rockies second baseman Josh Rutledge was not in the lineup for Tuesday's first game of the doubleheader against the Mets, on the heels of a 1-for-17 streak over his last four games to drop to .196 with one home run.

But manager Walt Weiss and hitting coach Dante Bichette say they are seeing enough positives to feel confident that Rutledge will have a turnaround.

Rutledge hit .274 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs in 74 games after being called up from Double-A Tulsa last year. But the combination of fatigue and a right quad injury reduced his effectiveness in September. He struggled early in Spring Training, but finished a respectable .268.

"'Rut's fine," Weiss said. "He does other things that help us win games, even if he's not locked in at the plate. He stole some bases in San Diego, and I think he's starting to get comfortable there, where he's picking his spots and taking off. He's played well at second base.

"It's important with young players to protect them from getting into a deep funk at the plate. Let them watch a game from the bench. Sometimes it's easier to slow the game down if they're not actually in the game. We're just trying to give them a little break, but he'll be right back out there."

Said Bichette, "You look at the makeup of the kid and the history of the kid. There's always somebody early in the season. He's the guy this year that starts off a little struggling. It's so early. One good game and he's back on track."

Rutledge is an aggressive swinger whose approach involves a leg kick, and the timing is tricky. As far as he is concerned, the key is to not lose the aggressiveness. He had nine walks in 291 plate appearances last year, and two in 50 so far this year. But his ability to cover a large area and put balls in play hard -- something he demonstrated in the Minors and for most of his time with the Rockies last year -- dictates that keeping the bat on his shoulder is not a good approach for him.

"All I'm trying to do is get balls in the zone as much as I can, and when they're in the zone, put a good swing on them," Rutledge said. "It's just a timing thing.

"Even from watching film from last season and Spring Training, nothing's really changed. You pretty much have the same swing you've had your whole life, but you might be rushing or something like that. It's not a big difference. You've just got to grind through the thing and help the team."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for 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.