PHOENIX -- Before joining the Rockies for the first time on Thursday, infielder Ryan Wheeler had to practice self-control.
Before being called up, Wheeler was having an effective season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, batting .348 with four doubles, two home runs and 16 RBIs in 15 games. On Wednesday night, he boarded a plane for the Sky Sox's trip to Tucson.
"At mid-flight, Glenallen [Hill, the Colorado Springs manager] came to me and said, he wanted to meet with me and it was important because I had missed something," Wheeler said. "But he said, 'We're not going to have a chance to do that. You're going to the big leagues tomorrow.' Then he goes and sits down in his chair, and I'm supposed to contain myself."
Wheeler, 24, debuted in the Majors with 50 games for the D-backs last year before the Rockies acquired him for left-handed relief pitcher Matt Reynolds. Wheeler will be used at third base and first base. He started Thursday's game at third, with manager Walt Weiss believing his left-handed bat gives the Rockies a better matchup against righty Trevor Cahill than the regular third baseman, right-handed-hitting Chris Nelson.
"Reports were that [Wheeler] was swinging the bat real well down there," Weiss said. "I wanted to get him involved right away. He can hit. That's been Ryan's ticket."
Wheeler, who hit .239 with one home run and 10 RBIs in 50 games for the D-backs last year, played third base primarily during his last two seasons with the D-backs in the Minors, and played mostly third in the Majors as well. But he has always played a healthy number of games at first, and played at first base this year in Colorado Springs because Rockies prospect Nolan Arenado is playing third.
The Rockies also could have called up outfielder Charlie Blackmon or outfielder/first baseman Tyler Colvin, both of whom have solid Triple-A numbers, but decided the corner infielder Wheeler was a better fit. Fans have clamored for Arenado, but Weiss said it's not a good move for a potential impact player like Arenado to make his debut with sporadic playing time.
Helton lands on DL with left forearm strain
PHOENIX -- The Rockies placed first baseman Todd Helton on the 15-day disabled list with a left forearm strain and called up infielder Ryan Wheeler from Triple-A Colorado Springs to start Thursday night's opener of a four-game series against the D-backs.
Helton's placement on the DL is dated to April 20, and he will be eligible to return May 5. Helton sustained the injury while playing in the cold at Coors Field during a doubleheader with the Mets on April 16. He went 2-for-4 against the Mets two days later, but hasn't played since an 0-for-2 showing against the D-backs last Friday.
Helton hoped the injury would heal quickly, and the Rockies gave him nearly a week. But on Thursday, they decided to place him on the DL, so they would not continue to essentially play a roster spot short. Helton, 39, nearly went into Wednesday afternoon's 12-inning, 6-5 victory over the Braves at Coors Field, but said the wrist was "not as good as I wanted it."
He will hold off on swinging the bat until he is sure he won't set himself back, but is improving.
"It's those tendons that go into the wrist," Helton said. "It just bothers me to swing. It's gotten a lot better but I'm sure one good swing, I'd be right back where I started. So I'll let this thing get healed up and get right back after it."
Helton hopes to be playing as soon as possible after he is eligible.
"We wanted to give him every opportunity to get healthy," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's so important to our club. It got to the point to where it was still going to be a few more days at least before he felt good about really letting it go with the bat."
Helton is hoping to bounce back from a 2012 season that ended in August because of right hip surgery, hitting .268 with one home run, three doubles and 10 RBIs in 13 games.
Right-handed-hitting Jordan Pacheco is batting .316 with four RBIs in 38 at-bats, and is 5-for-14 since Helton left the lineup.
The left-handed-hitting Wheeler, 24, obtained from the D-backs during the offseason for left-handed relief pitcher Matt Reynolds, hit.348 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 15 games at Colorado Springs. Wheeler made his Major League debut with the D-backs last season (.239, one home run, 10 RBIs in 50 games) while playing primarily third base. He has been playing mostly first base at Colorado Springs.
Weiss went with Wheeler on Thursday rather than right-handed-hitting Chris Nelson because the Rockies were facing D-backs righty Trevor Cahill. Weiss said Nelson would be back in the lineup Friday.
Rutledge gets buzz for knocking cover off foul ball
PHOENIX -- Playing second base, the Rockies' Josh Rutledge would love to be the next Ryne Sandberg, but thanks to an odd play Wednesday, his name is being mentioned in the same breath with Robert Redford.
During the Rockies' 12-inning, 6-5 victory over the Braves, Wheeler fouled a pitch off and the cover unraveled from the baseball. It was, more or less, shades of Roy Hobbs knocking the cover off the ball in the 1984 movie "The Natural."
That oddity received more attention in some highlight packages than the home run Rutledge hit in the second inning.
"Somebody actually sent me a slow-mo video of it to my Twitter account," Rutledge said. "I didn't realize the ball actually did that. But then I looked down at my bat, and there was a little piece of the ball in my cutoff. I was like, 'Oh, great.' I'm surprised the bat didn't break.
"Today we were in the weight room and the highlight came on, and Wilin Rosario pointed it out to me."
CarGo challenging himself to be more patient vs. D-backs
PHOENIX -- Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez entered Thursday night with strong career numbers against the D-backs -- a .322 batting average with 14 home runs and 36 RBIs in 202 at-bats.
However, during the Rockies' three-game sweep of the D-backs last week at Coors Field, Gonzalez managed to go just 2-for 13 with a double and three RBIs. Gonzalez began his pro career with the D-backs before being traded to the Athletics for pitcher Dan Haren. The Athletics sent him to the Rockies while acquiring Matt Holliday.
Gonzalez challenged himself to exercise the patience it takes to turn the tables back in his favor.
"That's the hard part of this game in the big leagues," Gonzalez said. "It's always a balance. If you hit well against a team, the next year is going to get tougher and tougher. They've been pitching me very carefully, and now I've got to get to my adjustment and start hitting them again.
"You've seen sometimes even when I'm ahead in the count and there's a fastball situation, they throw me breaking balls and pitches in the dirt. They'll throw a 3-1 breaking ball in the dirt and I'll chase. It should be a walk. But that's where they're taking me. That has been the strategy: 'If he's ready to walk, he'll walk. If he's ready to hit, he's not going to hit it hard.' So it's my turn to do something."
Bichette prepares Rockies batters for road production
PHOENIX -- During their first two road trips of the season, the Rockies shed their weak road reputation by hitting 16 home runs, hitting .267 with a .337 on-base percentage and scoring 45 runs in nine games. But the true challenge began Thursday night with the opener of four games against the D-backs.
It marked the first time the Rockies took to the road after a long homestand. The Rockies enjoyed the comforts of Coors Field while going 6-3 against the Mets, D-backs and Braves, but are beginning a seven-game road trip against the D-backs and Dodgers.
First-year hitting coach Dante Bichette has been quiet with the advice all season, and took the same approach in preparation for the trip. Rather than gather the club and offer a bunch of strategy at the start of the trip, he incorporated road preparation during the homestand.
Realizing that the action on breaking balls is greater outside of the mile-high atmosphere at home, Bichette set the pitching machine in the batting cage to produce more extreme breaks. So even if pitches were straighter during games at Coors, hitters were preparing for tougher at-bats.
"You can't really change your game plan," Bichette said. "You've got to bridge the gap while you're at home. You don't do anything extra on the road. We saw some breaking balls in the cage. But don't make a big deal of it. Don't wait to fix it when you're on the road."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.