DENVER -- You could call DJ LeMahieu a pleasant surprise, but that would be insinuating that he came out of nowhere. The Rockies second baseman and No. 8 hitter most certainly did not.LeMahieu was among the best hitters in the college ranks a few seasons ago, guiding Louisiana State to two College World Series appearances. In 2009, the year LSU won it all in Omaha, LeMahieu hit .444 (12-for-27) with four RBIs, three extra-base hits and nine runs scored. His efforts made him a second-round pick with the Cubs in '09, and he landed with the Rockies in an offseason trade that included outfielder Tyler Colvin for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers. LeMahieu was called up after Jon Herrera was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 23 and notched his first hit as a Rockie five days later, an RBI double. Another stroke of chance for LeMahieu: The groin injury that sent Troy Tulowitzki to the 15-day disabled list opened up an infield spot; Marco Scutaro moved over to shortstop, and LeMahieu to second base. "He's played a lot of second and, quite frankly, the best place for him defensively is second base," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. "He plays it extremely well. That's not to say that he couldn't go over and play shortstop if we had to do so. ... He can definitely do that." Over the last five games entering Saturday, LeMahieu had three hits (.250 batting average) from the eight-spot with two RBIs and a stolen base. "I have good bat control, I think that helps me out," said LeMahieu. "Hitting eighth is different than what I'm used to, but I've learned to take smarter at-bats with the pitcher behind me."
Injury news better for Chacin than De La Rosa
DENVER -- The Rockies received sober but expected news from pitcher Jorge De La Rosa's continued attempt to rebound from left elbow surgery.They also saw the first baby steps in right-hander Jhoulys Chacin's return from difficult-to-pin-down pain that has sidelined him for a month. Chacin played light catch, about 25 tosses, Saturday morning at Coors Field -- his first throwing since the injury occurred. De La Rosa experienced left biceps tightness Friday night while giving up four runs and five hits, including a homer, in an injury rehab start for Triple-A Colorado Springs at Salt Lake, and was expected to fly to Denver on Saturday to be seen by Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger. It's not the first flareup for De La Rosa, who underwent the surgery last June. De La Rosa was on a rehab assignment that potentially could have had him starting on Saturday against the Dodgers, but two weeks ago the Rockies shut him down because of forearm tightness. Since then, he has made two starts for Colorado Springs and has a 9.45 ERA. This bout with tightness, as with the last one, was something the Rockies say is common in return from such an operation. Dugger was not alarmed. "I don't know [the extent of the problem] because I haven't seen him yet, but it's just tightness," Dugger said. "It's probably inflamed somewhere right around the elbow. We'll see how it is." But Saturday was a good day for Chacin, who was 0-3 with a 7.30 ERA in five starts through May 1. The Rockies were going to option him to Colorado Springs until an examination revealed right shoulder inflammation, but Chacin and the club probed further when the shoulder wasn't responding to treatment and a strengthening program. It turned out the injury was to Chacin's pectoralis minor muscle, in the chest. That is believed to be the cause of weakness and diminished velocity. Having treated that, Chacin has made progress. Dugger said Chacin was pain-free during his game of catch on Saturday.
Brothers returns as Torres sent down
DENVER -- The tuneup for Rockies left-handed setup man Rex Brothers was brief.Brothers returned to the Rockies for Saturday afternoon's game against the Dodgers, after a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs that lasted just four appearances. With the Rockies, Brothers struggled to a 2-2 record and 5.17 ERA with 21 strikeouts but 12 often-costly walks in 22 appearances. "When I got there, it was just relaxing my mind, then going back to the basics -- the routines I used to have and going back to things that had worked for me in the past," Brothers said. "I got away from them whenever things were going bad and started pressing." The Rockies sent down righty Carlos Torres, who gave up three hits and two runs in Friday night's 13-3 victory over the Dodgers. Torres has a 4.50 ERA in four appearances as the Rockies' designated pitcher who comes up from Colorado Springs to help in a pinch. Brothers, 24, a supplemental first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, possesses a blazing fastball, capable of 97 mph, but was missing the strike zone with it early in counts, and outings unraveled. Brothers showed last year and in some early outings this year that if he is attacking the zone early, the fastball and his slider are enough to make him an effective lefty setup man. The Rockies could have used Brothers in less-crucial situations and kept him around, but manager Jim Tracy decided it would have been a waste. At Colorado Springs, Brothers struck out 13 and walked three in 5 1/3 innings and has been restored to his important role. "If [the Dodgers' Andre] Ethier needs to be gotten out today, we'll find out," Tracy said. "I won't be shy."
Something to be said for having more swagger
DENVER -- Since Monday, the far side of the Rockies dugout has been adorned with the word SWAG, block-letter style, in white trainers tape, and underlined twice.That day, May 28, also marked the first of five straight games won by the Rockies (22-29), who have made a serious push up the National League West standings. "Ever since Monday, when 'SWAG' went up, we've just been having more fun," said utility player Eric Young Jr. Troy Tulowitzki, who is on the 15-day disabled list, and pitcher Jeremy Guthrie have spearheaded the SWAG movement, by most accounts. Tulowitzki, he of the wild charity-raising haircuts and Justin Bieber walkup song, has always marched to his own beat. Guthrie, a new addition, wears a Stark Industries shirt in the clubhouse and has a home bank vault -- accessible by code entry -- in which he stores over 200 pairs of Jordan brand sneakers. "I love it, I love it," said manager Jim Tracy. "Any good team you see, there's an identity for the club -- something positive. This team is developing that." Its forging came at a cost, as the Rockies suffered a brutal stretch in May, losing 17 of 22 games. But now there's something to show for it: the longest win streak of the season and a clubhouse vibe -- or, swag -- that's as good as it has been in a while. "We did no finger pointing, it's refreshing," Tracy said. "We know what's going on in our clubhouse, the personnel we have. We look forward to coming to the park to be with one another, and that's a special thing. I have sensed it more so over the last four or the last five days. You can feel it in here."
Third baseman Jordan Pacheco did not start Saturday's game against the Dodgers because of soreness in his right quadriceps. Pacheco has a hit in five straight games. Chris Nelson started in his place. First baseman Todd Helton took a scheduled day off Saturday and was replaced by Michael Cuddyer, the usual rightfielder. Tyler Colvin started in right and hit fifth. Wil Nieves started at catcher while Wilin Rosario rested. Rosario leads National League rookies in home runs with eight.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Trey Scott is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.