DENVER -- In addition to balancing trips to the disabled list, the bereavement list and the unpredictable spring weather in Colorado that has already postponed four games and forced three scheduled doubleheaders, the Rockies have been playing at least a man down over the course of the past week.
They waited out reliever Rafael Betancourt's flu from May 7-13, they endured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's strained quad from the middle of Sunday's game in Los Angeles until he returned on Thursday, and they have been without Eric Young Jr. since he suffered an acute stress fracture of his tibia in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game.
"I did it [running out a grounder to second] in the fifth inning, and I played the rest of the game," Young said Friday. "It just felt like a bad shin splint, so that's what I was thinking. I've had shin splints before. I just stretch it out. We took an X-ray just to make sure it was nothing, and when we did [the fracture] showed up."
Young will most likely go on the disabled list between the two games of Saturday's split doubleheader, but the Rockies played Thursday and expect to play the first game Saturday without making an official move to replace him.
"Because of some situations that we have option-wise, we need to be very, very careful with that," manager Jim Tracy said, explaining why he is not bringing up a player from the Minors to replace Young immediately. "Knowing roughly how many people involve themselves in a game where [Saturday's first game starting pitcher] Ubaldo Jimenez is doing what he's very capable of doing, I think it's our best bet for this one game to sit tight, and realize that we've got two moves we have to make over the course of the next two days."
The first move will be to activate Jason Hammel from the disabled list in time for Saturday's second game, presumably putting Young on the DL at that point. The second move will be to activate Jeff Francis to start Sunday's game. Were the Rockies to bring up a Triple-A infielder like Jonathan Herrera or Omar Quintanilla for Young and then send him back down when one of their pitchers is activated, Herrera or Quintanilla, who are both out of options, could be claimed off waivers by another club.
"We could bring Herrera for whatever you want, but then he'd have to stay until Tuesday, because his time clock has turned over," Tracy explained. "The problem you run into now is that he's the guy you need to bring into Francis's spot, and you try to send him back, you run the risk of losing him because he's got to clear waivers."
The Rockies currently have 14 position players and 11 pitchers on their roster. If Young and Hammel trade spots in the Rockies clubhouse, the Rockies will likely send a pitcher down when Francis is activated. Rookie Esmil Rodgers (0-1, 6.14) is a prime candidate, having made two starts in his six appearances, but Greg Smith (1-2, 6.35 in seven starts) is another candidate, since the Rockies may want to keep him starting every five days in Colorado Springs, rather than relegate him to irregular bullpen work.