DENVER -- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario returned to the starting lineup Thursday night against the Mets after missing four games with a bruised left hand.
Rosario suffered the injury on a swing in Los Angeles. After rest and treatment, he took batting practice on the field in Arizona on Wednesday and in the batting cage at Coors Field on Thursday.
For those workout sessions, he modified his grip on the bat to try to mitigate the possibility of pain. But he couldn't make any promises that he'd follow suit when the game begins.
"I changed my grip, but I'll see what happens in the game," Rosario said. "I do my thinking now, but in the game I'm just going to go and play. Whatever happens, it happens. But I don't want to think at the plate. When I think, I don't do well."
Rosario entered Thursday night batting .244 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. For the last two-plus seasons, Rosario has been among the Majors' top power-hitting and run-producing catchers. His 18 games of three or more RBIs since the start of 2012 are most among Major League catchers.
But this is the second time that Rosario has had to deal with left hand and wrist injuries. Couple those with the fact he's a catcher and his left hand takes a beating receiving pitches, and there's always the possibility that it could be difficult to produce consistently offensively. That's one of the reasons his defense has been a point of focus.
Rosario has made some standout plays defensively, and manager Walt Weiss has praised his improvement with fundamentals and his attention to game planning that could help his pitchers. Those traits can keep him effective even if his offense is affected by the bumps and bruises that can happen in his job.
"He's getting better and better back there," Weiss said. "Those guys rarely feel great because they're always getting nicked up as a catcher. But he's a big, strong guy. That's why they call him 'The Bull.' He's ready to roll."
Opponents react as Blackmon's secret gets out
DENVER -- When the name Charlie Blackmon comes up in Rockies opponents' scouting meetings, the response certainly goes well beyond, "Who?"
Blackmon entered Thursday's opener of a four-game set with the Mets and a six-game homestand leading the Majors with a .374 batting average and, according to Baseball Reference, a 1.9 WAR (wins above replacement) -- third-highest in the Majors behind teammate Troy Tulowitzki (3.0) and the Angels' Mike Trout (2.3).
Those numbers make Blackmon the type of guy opponents will devote planning time to before the game.
"I'm definitely getting pitched differently than I was two weeks ago," Blackmon said. "Teams are going right to the offspeed stuff early. I feel like they're really trying to mix things up a lot more than they were two weeks ago."
He has the attention of the Mets.
"I don't hand out scouting reports, but he's red hot, I can tell you that," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We've heard everything. We have film, we have scouts. You better make some legitimate pitches."
During the Rockies' just-completed road trip that saw them go 4-2, opponents at least slowed Blackmon's otherworldly numbers. He went 5-for-21 (.238) with one walk and three strikeouts. But two of his five hits were doubles, and he scored four runs.
"I try not to change a lot," Blackmon said. "I just try to be aware of what they're doing and how they're approaching me as a hitter. I step back and say, 'This is how they're trying to get me out,' and go into it knowing what they're going to do."
Rockies manager Walt Weiss said Blackmon, who should be getting plenty of support on the All-Star ballot, is studious enough to keep up with the ever-changing game plans.
"He puts in a lot of time," Weiss said. "He's a smart guy and he makes adjustments well. That's why we've seen him be successful."
Humble Tulo takes success in stride
DENVER -- Correlations are so cool that sometimes we look for them even if they're not there. So here goes:
On April 18, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki rang up a 14-pitch plate appearance against the Phillies' Jonathan Pettibone. It led to a walk, but Tulowitzki homered in his next at-bat. Since the start of that game, Tulowitzki has batted .415 with 11 walks, five doubles, six home runs, 16 RBIs and a 1.514 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).
Did that marathon plate appearance lock Tulowitzki in for a couple of weeks?
Tulowitzki deflected the question that night when asked if that was an omen of a hot streak. Even in retrospect, he won't go there.
"I'm not sure," Tulowitzki said. "I come to the park every day knowing how hard this game is, and I try to humble myself as much as I possibly can. I never talk myself into either a slump or talk myself into, 'Man, I'm really going to get hot here.' The moment you do that, you're asking for trouble."
Tulowitzki entered Thursday night's game against the Mets second in the National League with a .364 batting average and leading the league in several categories, including slugging percentage (.727), on-base percentage (.477) and runs (24), so he was hitting before the long confrontation with Pettibone.
The day-by-day thought process helped Tulowitzki during a rare rough patch during the just-completed road trip, which saw the Rockies go 4-2. Tulowitzki homered on his first at-bat in Los Angeles on Friday, then went 0-for-12 the rest of the series.
Rather than panic, Tulowitzki targeted some areas to improve, and went 5-for-6 with two home runs, five RBIs and three walks the first two games at Arizona.
"That L.A. series sticks with you, but more than anything, if we'd have gotten swept there, that tends to bug me," Tulowitzki said. "But the fact we won two out of three makes it a lot easier to take. I come to the park trying to win games, so when we win and I struggle, it's easier.
"When we went to Arizona, my plan of attack is to work. I really did, every day, had some results and stuck with it. Now we're onto a new series."
Hawkins thankful for time with Mets
DENVER -- Of course Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins has no hard feelings toward the Mets, his team last year.
The Mets didn't match the $2.5 million, one-year contract with a 2015 option that he received from the Rockies. But Hawkins pointed out that the Mets had a lot to do with the fact he's still pitching. He's doing it well, by the way. With nine saves going into Thursday's series opener against his former employer, he was tied for third in the National League.
Hawkins, the Majors' oldest pitcher at 41, was considered too old before last season. Coming off a broken finger on his pitching hand that he suffered fielding a line drive while playing for the Angels in 2012, no team offered a Major League contract. All he had was a Minor League offer from the Mets.
"I have nothing but great things to say about Sandy [Alderson, the Mets' general manager] and the Wilpons [the family that owns the club], because that was the only offer I had," Hawkins said. "It's cool. It's part of the process.
"When people tell you you're about done, it doesn't mean that you're done."
Hawkins said he almost went home nonetheless.
"There was a point where I wasn't going to take a Minor League deal, until Larry Reynolds [his agent] talked to me and was like, 'Are you sure you want to do that?' Are you sure you don't want to take a Minor League deal? Do you still want to continue to play?'" Hawkins said. "We had a conversation about it. Larry talked me out of it [retiring].
"I'm glad I didn't, but I was very close. Larry sat me down, talking to me about it, throwing the different variables and situations at me. It was real close. It was more out of frustration than anything."
Hawkins said he thought he was going to return to the Mets, but the offer from the Rockies -- for whom he pitched in 2007, when they went to the World Series -- changed his course.
"Being here before definitely played a factor in my decision to come back," Hawkins said. "Same management, and we'd love to relive '07. My family loved it here and I loved it here. It was just a perfect match. If they weren't in the equation and the other team was in the equation, there's a good chance I'd have been back to Queens."