Spilborghs one bright spot for Rockies
DENVER – Not a lot has gone right for the Colorado Rockies in the season’s first six weeks.Their ace is winless, their rotation is in shreds, their bullpen is awful and their lineup is a hodgepodge of Triple-A call-ups and slumping sluggers.Through it all, Ryan Spilborghs has continued to come through in the clutch.The backup outfielder and pinch-hitter who started in right field in the series finale against St. Louis on Thursday had collected five hits in his last six pinch-hit at-bats and entered the day 9-for-18 with runners in scoring position.He had a run-scoring pinch-hit single off Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen on Wednesday night, then scored the winning run on Chris Iannetta’s triple that capped a four-run eighth-inning rally in Colorado’s 4-3 win.
Spilborghs has shown a terrific temperament for his part-time role.”Part of it is you go up there and you’re not feeling bad for not starting, you’re excited,” Spilborghs said. “I get excited every chance I get to come in in the eighth inning or ninth inning off somebody like that. It’s something I look forward to at the start of the day when I know I’m not starting.”I get myself prepared to hit off someone that I think is one of the better guys in the game and to do something special. Obviously, you’re not going to get a hit every time, especially as a pinch-hitter. You’re just trying to get a quality at-bat.”Unlike many players who view pinch-hitting as a stress-inducer, Spilborghs sees it as a win-win proposition.”If you do get a hit, everybody’s really excited. But if you don’t, like if I didn’t get a hit right there, nobody would be upset about it,” Spilborghs said. “Basically, all you can do is good if you get a quality at-bat.”
Manager Clint Hurdle said Spilborghs “is becoming a very, very good major league player. He grows on you everyday. … He gets out-of-sorts at times like everybody else, but he seems to recover quick. He’s constantly focused on hitting the ball hard where it’s pitched, nothing more than that.”Spilborghs, who has started five times in center and four times in right this season, doesn’t just kick back when he doesn’t see his name in the starting lineup. He knows he’ll more than likely be called upon in the clutch.”No, it’s not easy,” he said. “But at the same time it’s one of those things that you prepare for. You’ve got the whole game to go into the cage and start warming up.”Spilborghs’ pinch hit Wednesday night was part of a rare rally for the Rockies, who lost leader Troy Tulowitzki to a hip injury during a slide in which they lost 13 of 16 to fall to 12-21, the worst start by a defending league champion since Florida’s fire sale 10 years ago after the Marlins’ magical 1997 season.”I would hope that our guys in this clubhouse think that there’s no way we should be playing this bad,” Spilborghs said. “And I think that’s part of the reason that we are playing this bad is because we can’t believe it.”
Spilborghs is one Colorado player who hasn’t slumped in 2008, and his clutch performances might just be the spark the Rockies need to get going.”You’re always looking for a spark to start a fire,” Hurdle said. “One of the things Ryan’s been able to do so very well is focus on having a quality at-bat. Get ready to hit a fastball early, try to lay off the other stuff until you get to two strikes and then you just do the best you can. That’s pretty much his game plan when he goes up there every time. It’s a good game plan for anybody.”—AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report.
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