Notes: Miles has momentum

Notes: Miles has momentum

DENVER -- Second baseman Aaron Miles has been making his job look easy. He led all rookies in hits (153) and runs (75) in 2004, and topped the National League with a .293 average, yet he still came in fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting last season.

He has carried that momentum into the 2005 season, with authority.

Miles has started 13 of Colorado's first 17 games at second base, all in the leadoff spot. He entered Saturday's game batting .368 -- the highest average among all Major League second basemen and fifth highest in the National League.

"He's been doing that with real good regularity so far this season," said manager Clint Hurdle. "He's trying to hit the ball where it fits, not just trying too much with the pitches they're giving him, just getting the barrel on it."

In addition, Miles entered Saturday's game leading the Majors with an incredible .818 average with runners in scoring position, driving in seven.

"With runners in scoring position, it opens up the holes," said Miles. "For a guy like me, who wants to hit the ball hard, I love it when there are guys on base.

"Other than that, I would say the hitting is a little contagious. We have a lot of guys who are hitting the ball pretty good right now. Some of these [pitchers], they're not new to me anymore. I faced them last year. You take what you can and learn from last year and hopefully, I can build on what I did last year, and have a better season than last year."

Against the Dodgers on Friday, Miles went 2-for-2 with runners in scoring position, and collected four hits in the game -- just one shy of matching his career best of five hits, set on Opening Day.

"He's been phenomenal, but I don't expect him to keep that pace throughout the year," said Hurdle. ".800 is a little high, but he's been locked in with runners in scoring position, without a doubt."

Settling in: Historically, April has been a tough month for many players, as they try to settle in for the season. Catcher JD Closser and first baseman Todd Helton are no exception.

Closser, who has started 10 of the first 16 games this season behind the plate, has hit safely in his last two games but is just 4-for-his-last-27 (.148).

"Defensively, I feel good, and the offense is coming around a little bit," said Closser. "I know the numbers aren't there, but the at-bats are starting to get a little better each day, and that's all you can ask for. It's just kind of one of those things."

Helton, on the other hand, entered Saturday's game hitting just 3-for-22 in his last six games.

"It will make things better for the entire lineup when we get production out of the middle of the lineup," said Hurdle. "Hitters go through slumps and struggles, just as teams do. He doesn't have good Aprils, so this isn't too abstract."

Rehab roundup: It appears that both outfielder Dustan Mohr and third baseman Garrett Atkins are nearing the end of their rehab assignments with Triple-A Colorado Springs. Mohr is expected to play five, seven and nine innings, respectively, in the next three games in Colorado Springs before being re-evaluated by the Rockies.

Atkins, on the other hand, appears to be a bit closer to returning to the big club.

"He's probably going to play again [on Sunday]," said Hurdle. "We'll follow up after the game with a phone call to see if he needs to stay any longer or not. He is still a little rusty with the bat in a game situation, so we are monitoring that."

Roster moves: After Saturday's game, the Rockies announced that they have come to terms with right-handed pitcher Denny Stark on a Minor League contract. In addition, the organization released infielder Andy Tracy from Triple-A Colorado Springs so that he could pursue an opportunity in Japan.

On deck: The Rockies will finish their three-game set against the Dodgers at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon. Left-hander Jeff Francis will go for his fifth consecutive winning decision, dating back to last year. He has won each of his three career starts at Coors Field, and recorded a no-decision in his only start against the Dodgers.

Lindsay Albanesi is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.