DENVER -- The Dodgers finished April with a 16-7 record and a 3 1/2-game lead in the National League West. But what does that mean?Well, a strong start didn't mean much for the Rockies last year. They were 17-9 after April, but by season's end were in fourth place at 73-89. "So much for [17-9], right?" Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. Early struggles by starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who didn't win until June 1, a season-ending elbow injury to lefty starter Jorge De La Rosa and a team-wide hitting slump led to an 8-21 May that wiped away any good feelings from April. A look at the last five seasons reveals that the leader at the end of April did not win the division three times, and sometimes a team struggling through the first month ended up in the playoffs. The Rockies were 10-16 in April 2007 and 8-12 in April 2009, and made the playoffs each year. "What it boils down to is this, is you have to be mindful that the season isn't one month long," Tracy said. "It's six. One good month does not a good season make. You run into pitfalls, whether it's early or late. "As [current White Sox manager] Robin Ventura said when he played for me [with the Dodgers], over the course of 162 games, all 30 teams will step into a pothole. The key to the success and, or failure of your season is more times than not the teams that figure out quicker than others how to get ... out of the pothole."
Rosario learning plenty during time in bigs
DENVER -- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario compares his rookie season with the Rockies to being in a classroom, one he hopes to keep attending.A strong Spring Training allowed Rosario to skip Triple-A and break camp with the club. The move is risky, since Rockies veteran Ramon Hernandez is making most of the starts. Rosario could be playing every day at Triple-A Colorado Springs. "Here, it's like school," Rosario said. "I've got tests I need to pass, things I need to learn. I'm learning every day." At times, Rosario, 23, has excelled in limited playing time. He has thrown out five of the 11 runners who have tried to steal against him. But he entered Tuesday -- he didn't start, but is expected to start Wednesday against the Dodgers -- on an 0-for-11 slump, with some of the over-aggressiveness that he displayed in a brief callup last season recurring. Still, he'd rather be struggling here than thriving in Triple-A. Rosario went into Tuesday with a .194 batting average and .212 on-base percentage in 33 plate appearances, with one home run and four RBIs. "I got away from my rhythm, my tempo, and that's what I've worked on the last couple of days," Rosario said. "I feel better, more comfortable. I'm confident that I'll be good. I'm learning what I can from Ramon, and I'll be ready for my chance. "My focus is more on my defense. I want to be comfortable with all the pitchers. But I can hit. I'll tell everybody. I can hit and I'm going to hit." Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Rosario's playing time "is not perfect, but it's not bad, either," and working with Hernandez is a plus. But Tracy said Rosario needs to return his focus to swinging at pitches in the strike zone, which is how he impressed the Rockies during the spring. Tracy said he would like for Rosario to take note of some of the Rockies' veteran hitters, who lately have been displaying the discipline Rosario needs. "His strike zone has gotten too big, and he needs to rehone the focus and understand what makes him good as an offensive player," Tracy said. "Where he's at right now offensively resembles where he was at early in the spring. "We grabbed a hold of him and told him we want him to be a hitter. In him being a hitter, the power, the home runs and all the stuff that he likes to do will show up. As we go along, if we continue to see this not adjusting back to what's going to make him good and make him a hitter at this level, if we have to sit down and reanalyze the situation, we'll do so."
Escalona comes through in a tough spot
DENVER -- The Rockies didn't particularly want to turn a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the seventh inning against the Dodgers on Monday over to recently called up right-handed reliever Edgmer Escalona.But Escalona, 25, forced a popup to end the inning, pitched another scoreless inning and helped the Rockies preserve an eventual 6-2 victory. That's a good way to earn the trust of manager Jim Tracy. Escalona was pitching because veteran Matt Belisle was given the night off due to his heavy workload. Escalona could be a viable option for Tracy when more experienced late-innings relievers are not available. "We have added a lynchpin," Tracy said. "From a confidence standpoint, we jumped a guy up about four notches, yet the credit for that goes to the pitcher himself."
Brothers on a hot stretch out of 'pen
DENVER -- Rockies left-hander Rex Brothers shook off a recent slump by simply relaxing his mind.In his last four outings, covering 3 1/3 innings, Brothers hasn't given up a run, has yielded two hits and has eight strikeouts with no walks. This was after a period when he struggled to retire the first batter he faced, fell behind in counts and was hit hard because hitters knew he had to bring his 95-97 mph fastball into the strike zone. Brothers has hit his spots with his fastball and used his slider as either a strike or a chase pitch in his last four outings -- including Monday, when he struck out the Dodgers' Andre Ethier with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of an eventual 6-2 Rockies victory. At no point during his down period -- three earned runs, seven hits, four walks in three innings over a five-game stretch -- did Brothers feel there was a problem with his delivery. He said he was just putting too much pressure on himself. "I was really disappointed in myself for letting things go the way they did for that long," Brothers said. "Sometimes that's what it takes, you hitting stinkin' rock bottom. Unfortunately it did take a week and a half and blowing a couple of leads, but I'm confident in my stuff." Brothers throws a fastball and a hard slider. When he's struggling, the question becomes whether he needs an offspeed pitch. He said during Spring Training he was thinking of eventually adding a changeup, a pitch he used in the Minors but didn't stick with because it wasn't effective. Now, Brothers realizes that if he spots both pitches properly, he has enough to be effective. "The answer to that would be throwing my offspeed pitch, my slider, for a strike," Brothers said. "That would fix all that. That is a good pitch if I can throw it for strikes, and throw it for a strikeout pitch that hitters can chase. The slider can be a third pitch if I can throw it for a strike."
Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa will start Thursday night for Class A Modesto in his first injury rehab assignment as he completes his return from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Left-hander Josh Outman, currently out with a right oblique strain, has had two strong one-inning rehab performances, one with Class A Modesto and the other with Triple-A Colorado Springs. Outman will join Double-A Tulsa for appearances on Thursday and Friday, take two days off, then rejoin Colorado Springs for a two-inning appearance at Memphis, according to Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger.
Rockies right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, out with a bruised right shoulder, played catch at up to 200 feet before Tuesday's game. It was his second catch session since suffering an injury on Friday when he fell off his bicycle. Guthrie said before the session that his shoulder was sore but is improving. He is eligible to return May 8.
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.