Bautista may finally have the answer.
The grip on the knuckle-curve hasn't changed. Still, the index fingernail digs into the curve of the seams and his long middle finger rests along the ball. But Bautista has dropped to almost a sidearm delivery, rather than overhand. He also throws his fastball from the lower arm slot, so batters don't know what's coming.
It has paid off since Bautista was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs last Sunday. He is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three appearances. He struck out two in the 10th inning to earn the decision in the Rockies' 6-5, 11-inning win over the Reds on Friday night.
Bautista hopes the corrections he has made to avoid injury are the last steps to sticking in the Majors. It has been a long road since he signed with the Marlins in 2000. Bautista pitched in the Majors with the Orioles (2004) and Royals (2005-06) before coming to the Rockies in a trade last season.
Bautista credits the Royals for giving him valuable advice. He was limited to seven games in the Majors and six in the Minors in 2005 because of shoulder tendinitis.
"The Royals told me in 2005 they didn't want me to throw the curveball anymore," Bautista said. "They were worried about my arm, and thought I would hurt my elbow.
"I just kind of figured it out. I went down to the Dominican Winter League and worked on it."
Before last winter, the Rockies also streamlined Bautista's development by making him a reliever. Before this season, Bautista had started 20 of his 26 Major League games and 116 of his 122 games in the Minors.
Bautista attacked the Reds mainly with his fastball on Friday, but he is confident in the new breaking pitch. He'll need to be against Major League hitters.
"I feel very good right now," Bautista said. "I'm getting the fastball down, and I feel that finally I can stay in the strike zone and keep it there."
On his way: Two Pac-10 conference pitchers selected in the first round of last summer's Major League Baseball First-Year player draft are already at the big-league level.
Right-hander Brandon Morrow, taken fifth overall out of California by the Mariners, has been in that team's bullpen all season, and former Washington right-hander Tim Lincecum, the 10th overall pick, will make his debut for the Giants in a Sunday afternoon start against the Phillies.
Former Stanford right-hander Greg Reynolds, taken second overall by the Rockies, isn't in the Majors yet. But he's still considered a fast-mover. He is 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA in five starts at Double-A Tulsa, and so far is showing passable work in an area important to the Rockies -- being effective against a familiar opponent.
Reynolds' first two starts broke down at home and on the road against Corpus Christi, and home-road against Springfield. There have been no red flags that indicate hitters have figured him out. Overall, Reynolds has struck out 26 against six walks and 21 hits in 33 innings.
The Rockies still want to see how he does as the schedule continues, but Reynolds is considered right behind Triple-A Colorado Springs right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez in terms of being close to the Majors.
"I don't think you ever set a time frame or number of starts before you bring a kid to the big leagues," Rockies assistant general manager Bill Geivett said. "The one thing I really like about the Texas League is they play the same clubs in their division a lot, so opponents get a chance to see him and he'll have to make adjustments.
"We're definitely in a situation where we don't feel we have to rush anybody"
Geivett said some baseball observers wondered why the Rockies didn't start Reynolds in Class A. But the Rockies felt he was beyond the issues that require a pitcher to start there.
Injury update: Right-handed starter Rodrigo Lopez (strained forearm) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session, and reliever LaTroy Hawkins (strained forearm) threw a 25-pitch bullpen on Friday in Denver. Both will throw again Monday or Tuesday, depending on how they feel.
Relievers Ramon Ramirez (strained forearm) and Dave Veres (coming back from hip replacement surgery) are scheduled to throw an inning Monday in an extended Spring Training game in Tucson, Ariz. Right-hander Mike DeJean (returning from shoulder surgery) also is scheduled to pitch Monday, but that might be pushed back because of a personal matter.
On the Rox: Third baseman Garrett Atkins has hit in seven straight games, but he is just 9-for-39 in the last nine games. However, his 4-for-10 performance with runners in scoring position in the last seven games offers encouragement. "He's put together a little modest hitting streak, but time will tell," manager Clint Hurdle said. ... The Rockies entered Saturday night 3-2 in extra-inning games. Only the Tigers (2-5) have gone to extra innings more often. ... Right-hander Aaron Cook's wife, Holly, arranged for 500 tickets for Saturday night's game. The Cooks are from nearby Hamilton, Ohio.
Coming up: Right-hander Josh Fogg (1-2, 5.08 ERA) makes the start for the Rockies in the series finale Sunday against Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo (1-2, 2.59). Game time is 1:15 p.m. MT.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.