Notes: Arms getting the job done

Notes: Arms getting the job done

DENVER -- Since May 31, the Rockies are tied with the Dodgers for the best record in the National League West. Although the mark isn't impressive at 13-18, their success has been due in large part to improved starting pitching.

After going on a 1-8 road trip in mid-June, the Rockies are 6-5 since, with the starters collecting five of those wins. In nine of the past 11 games, the starting pitcher has gone at least six innings. With the exception of one outing, Colorado's pitchers have kept the games close and given the team a chance to win.

"They're all staying in good counts, the first-pitch strike ratios are high," said pitching coach Bob Apodaca. "They're putting away people when they do get to two strikes, making quality pitches."

In four games last weekend against the NL Central-leading Cardinals, whose lineup includes four All-Stars, Colorado's starters pitched 24 2/3 innings, giving up 24 hits and 10 runs, seven of those earned.

"They've kept the ball down, kept the ball tight underneath [the hitters'] hands a lot," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's one of the things our pitchers have worked on."

Tuesday's starter, Jeff Francis, has been dominant his last two outings. He blanked the Cardinals in six innings and prior to that, gave up two runs on six hits in seven innings against the Royals.

"It's not a secret -- when starters pitch well, check the counts they're in," Apodaca said. "Check their ball/strike ratio on fastball and offspeed pitches; you'll see a higher percentage."

With Shawn Chacon returning to the rotation on Wednesday from a left hamstring strain, the Rockies will have to adjust their starting rotation. Byung-Hyun Kim has been given a chance to start due to Chacon's injury, but his future with the team remains unknown.

Kim's ERA in the bullpen was nearly 8.00, but it is more than three runs lower as a starter. Kim has expressed his desire to start, and has been effective at Coors Field.

In addition to Chacon returning, the team is waiting on Aaron Cook, who was transferred to Class A Modesto and made his third rehab start on Tuesday.

Cook suffered from blood clots in both lungs during a start in August last season, and has been out all year following surgery. In his first two rehab starts, he tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing one hit. In 2004 with the Rockies, Cook went 6-4 with a 4.38 ERA, his best stint in the Majors.

Trade gossip heats up: According to a baseball source, the Nationals are trying hard to acquire Preston Wilson before the All-Star break.

The Rockies have made it no secret that they would like to deal Wilson, who is a free agent after next season. Wilson has gone on record to say that he would be willing to play a corner position, which would likely be the case if he were traded to Washington.

Carvajal faces former organization: Rockies reliever Marcos Carvajal faced the team that scouted and signed him on Monday night, and looked impressive.

Carvajal signed with the Dodgers as a free agent in 2000, and was selected by the Brewers in the 2004 Rule 5 Draft. The Rockies had an arrangement with Milwaukee to acquire Carvajal.

On Monday, Carvajal entered in the seventh inning with one out, the game tied and the bases loaded. He threw one pitch and got a double play. The following inning, Carvajal struck out the side.

"I wanted to let them know they were wrong for not giving me a chance and protecting me to pitch for them," Carvajal said through fellow right-hander David Cortes.

Carvajal is the youngest player in Rockies history at 20 years old. In 24 appearances entering Tuesday, he has a 4.73 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings. Monday's outing was one of the few times he has entered a game during a pressure situation.

Injury updates: Mike DeJean threw his second simulated game on Tuesday, after complaining of shoulder soreness following his first session.

The Rockies expected to activate him on Monday, but due to the pain, they wanted DeJean to throw again on Tuesday. Hurdle said the team is waiting to see how he feels Wednesday before deciding when to activate him. DeJean, who was released by the Mets in June, pitched for Colorado from 1997-2000.

Outfielder Matt Holliday, who has missed 23 games because of a fractured right pinky finger, took 50 swings off a tee on Tuesday, the first time he has swung since the injury. Holliday has played long toss for several days, and is expected to hit live pitching in the batting cage later this homestand.

Todd Greene is not making the same progress as Holliday. Greene strained his right hamstring in early June on the bases, and continued to experience discomfort on Monday. There is no timetable for his return.

On deck: Chacon (1-4, 3.83 ERA) will start for the Rockies on Wednesday against the Dodgers in the third game of the four-game set. Los Angeles will send Brad Penny (4-5, 3.49 ERA) to the mound.

Michael Gluskin is a contributor to reporters Thomas Harding and Bill Ladson contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.