Rox flip-flop sluggers to bolster their lineup |

Rox flip-flop sluggers to bolster their lineup

TUCSON, Ariz. – Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle flip-flopped Todd Helton and Matt Holliday in the batting order in an experiment Wednesday that he believes will bolster his lineup while wearing out opponents’ bullpens.To split up the right-handed hitting Holliday and the right-handed hitting Garrett Atkins, the No. 3 hitter, Hurdle switched Helton to cleanup and Holliday to fifth.The first day went very well, with Atkins (2-for-3), Helton (1-for-3), Holliday (2-for-3) and the No. 6 hitter, left-handed hitting Brad Hawpe (3-for-3) combining to go 8-for-12 with six RBIs, including a two-run homer by Holliday in Colorado’s 12-4 win over the Chicago White Sox in the exhibition opener Wednesday.Of course, the changes are designed to force opponents to burn more relievers in the late innings once the season starts. Opponents would no longer be able to bring in their top left-handed reliever to face both Helton and Hawpe; they might even have to use three pitchers to get through the middle of the Rockies’ lineup.”It’s just something I’ve thought about over the winter,” Hurdle said. “I want to find a way to put our best offense out on the field, our most dynamic offense, the offense in which our hitters can complement one another the best, provide more difficult matchups for the opposition, more decision-making for the manager and to test the bullpen depth for the other side.”Although Helton is a career .344 hitter from the cleanup spot, the danger in all this is messing with Holliday, the best cleanup hitter in the majors last year when he hit .334 with 34 homers and 82 RBIs from the No. 4 spot. Batting fifth, Holliday batted .286 with 6 homers and 19 RBIs.”I’d like to be able to see us pull this off,” Hurdle said. “It’s our most dynamic offense. There’s no doubt Matt can hit fourth. That was one of principals I needed to talk to first about this, along with Todd.”Hurdle said he got no negative vibes from any of the hitters over the changes.”I went in open-minded and told them why I was doing it. When I was done speaking, they were like, ‘Yeah, that makes sense. Let’s go,”‘ Hurdle said. “Do you want to be the best team we can be? And I think once they look at it and they go back and draw it up on paper and see how it can play out and moves can be made, that’s a very challenging lineup.”Hurdle also put switch-hitter Kazuo Matsui in the No. 2 spot behind newcomer Willy Taveras on Wednesday, something he plans to do a lot of this season.”I think Matsui’s game is going to be the same whether he hits first or second. This way we keep Willy doing what he’s had a little more history of doing,” Hurdle said. “It opens a hole up for Matsui. It gets a guy on base in front of him who can run. He might get a few more fastballs. We’ll see how that plays out. Or if they want to throw the breaking ball, we’ve got a guy at first who can go.”—COOK’S DEBUT: Right-hander Aaron Cook, who is one of three pitchers competing for the Opening Day assignment, has been working on a four-seam fastball and he had great immediate success with it when he rung up White Sox DH Jim Thome with a man on third base and one out in the first inning.”That situation, a guy on third base, less than two outs, you’re looking more to get a guy to punch out or hit a weak fly ball into the infield,” said Cook, whose sinker might otherwise induce a ground ball that could score the run. “It’s something I’m going to try to incorporate more.”Actually, it’s something he’s trying to RE-locate.”I came up as a four-seam pitcher. I just broke into the big leagues as a sinkerballer,” he said. “So, it’s just a matter of incorporating it more like I started to do at the end of last year.”Manager Clint Hurdle, who’s not easily impressed by spring training exploits, was glad to see it work.”Any time you’re working on something and you can put it in the game and have a positive result, it’s something to build upon,” he said.Cook is vying for the No. 1 job in the rotation vacated by the trade of Jason Jennings to Houston over the winter. Other candidates are Jeff Francis and newcomer Rodrigo Lopez.”It meant a lot to get out there the first game (of spring) and just get through it and show them I could control the emotions a little bit,” Cook said.—WILD PITCHES: The Rockies were 10-for-25 with runners in scoring position. … C Javy Lopes went 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs in his inaugural game for the Rox. … Closer Brian Fuentes had three strikeouts in one inning of work. … The Rox play the Sox in their home spring opener Thursday. LHP Jeff Francis will start for Colorado against LHP Heath Phillips at Hi Corbett Field.

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