DENVER -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton declared Friday that his left forearm strain has healed and he will be back in the lineup Sunday against the Rays.
Helton took batting practice in Los Angeles and again at Coors Field and has been throwing for most of this week. Helton is hitting .268 with one home run, three doubles and 10 RBIs. At 39, he will not need a Minor League rehab assignment.
"He could wake up on Christmas morning, go out and hit two doubles," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
Fowler injures hip flexor, hopes to return Saturday
DENVER -- Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler limped off the field on Friday and was removed in the fourth inning of a 7-4, 10-inning loss to the Rays after colliding with Rays first baseman Sean Rodriguez and suffering right hip flexor soreness.
"I probably could have stayed in the game, but they said it was a precaution, so I came out," said Fowler, who hopes to play Saturday. However, Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger will make that call.
Fowler extended his hit streak to a career-best 11 games with a first-inning single. With the Rockies leading, 3-2, in the fourth, Fowler bunted after Rays pitcher Matt Moore walked Jonathan Herrera and Jeff Francis. When he arrived at first, Rodriguez had awkwardly scrambled to the bag. As Fowler arrived, his left hip bumped into Rodriguez's leg.
"I just landed weird," Fowler said. "It's fine. It just tightened up on me. I knew it wasn't that serious. I just tweaked it a little bit."
Fowler is off to the best start of his career, hitting .310 with eight home runs and 15 RBIs. With such strong numbers, the decision to bunt was questioned. Fowler said he was acting on his own, not on orders from manager Walt Weiss, who gives him freedom. The bunt did not go past Moore and give him a chance to reach first base, but he thought moving the runners was a worthy fallback.
"That was my call," Fowler said. "Walt didn't have anything to do with that. You have two runners in scoring position, you're facing one of the best pitchers in the game. We get those two runs in and it's a different ballgame. Sometimes you have to take one for the team."
Eric Young Jr. replaced Fowler in center field, and struck out in all three of his at-bats, including one with the bases loaded against Jake McGee in the eighth and one with runners on second and third in the 10th against Fernando Rodney to end the game.
"Tonight I didn't have my best stuff," Young said. "Fortunately, we have another game tomorrow. That's why they call the season a grind."
The Rockies decided before the game not to start shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who felt tightness in his leg. Tulowitzki missed most of last season because of a left groin injury that required surgery to remove scar tissue. Tulowitzki came up as a pinch-hitter with two on and one out in the eighth, and Rays manager Joe Maddon walked him intentionally. He was removed for a pinch-runner.
With back feeling strong, Chacin will start Sunday
DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin said he has no issues from his back strain that landed him on the disabled list last month and will be ready to start Sunday -- the day he is eligible to return -- against the Rays at Coors Field.
Chacin was 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA and had thrown 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the D-backs on April 19 when he left that game with the injury. But Chacin rehabbed and cleared a major hurdle Tuesday by throwing 60 pitches and giving up just one run against Angels Minor Leaguers at the team's training complex in Scottsdale, Ariz. Chacin threw a bullpen session Wednesday and rejoined the club Thursday.
"I've fielded ground balls, bunts, everything, and I feel no pain. So everything is good," Chacin said. "I have no problems. I just missed two starts, so I'll do the same thing I was doing -- throw strikes, get hitters out, let the defense help me."
The Rockies entered Friday the surprise early leader in the National League West. But Chacin, who started Opening Day, but unabashedly said his goal this year is to start Game 1 of the World Series, doesn't count himself among the surprised.
"I know the talent that we have, and we're showing it," Chacin said. "We're playing together. Some days we don't hit, but we pitch. Some days we don't pitch well, but we hit. That's how good teams put things together."
Manager Walt Weiss said he is not sure how the Rockies will clear the roster spot for Chacin. Candidates to be sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs are right-handers Tyler Chatwood and Juan Nicasio. Chatwood came up to replace Chacin and is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts. Nicasio is 3-0, but with a 4.91 ERA and has struggled to pitch deep in games.
Weiss feels Oswalt signing was wise decision
DENVER -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss applauded the organization's move to sign veteran three-time All-Star Roy Oswalt, a right-hander who is working at extended spring training and most likely will join Double-A Tulsa before slotting into the Rockies' rotation.
Oswalt, 35, is 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five career starts at Coors Field, so his pitching style is proven not to be affected by the unique, hitter-friendly air.
The Rockies have some youthful talent on the starting staff, both in the Majors (Juan Nicasio, Tyler Chatwood) and at Triple-A Colorado Springs (Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich). To allow them to develop, the club has been gradually adding veterans such as Jon Garland, who will pitch against the Rays on Saturday, and Aaron Cook, who struggled initially, but is coming off a positive outing in his last start for Colorado Springs.
Weiss said Oswalt, who has been facing hitters in Mississippi and appears to be not far from game shape, was signed for more than just an impressive resume.
"He's got the wisdom, but I think he's still got the stuff to go along with that wisdom," Weiss said.
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.