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Notes: Rockies returning to health

Notes: Rockies returning to health

DENVER -- The top of the Rockies order was back in action Saturday night after five games without leadoff man Willy Taveras.

Taveras had been suffering from groin soreness since last Sunday's game in Cincinnati, and he jump-started the Rockies' attack with a 1-for-3 night, earning a walk, a double and a run scored off Barry Zito and playing the full nine innings.

"I feel very good after yesterday," Taveras said Sunday. "My legs feel better today, I feel fine. I wouldn't assess myself at 100 percent, but I stayed within myself the whole game and I didn't have to push anything. I think I've got pretty good speed overall. I hope I don't need to rush, but if I have to, I'm going to try to rush."

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Taveras could also prove to be the spark igniting a handful of injured players with the potential to return to the team over the next 10 days. Relievers Ramon Ramirez (sprained right elbow) and LaTroy Hawkins (right elbow inflammation) are both scheduled to pitch at Triple-A Colorado Springs on Sunday, with Ramirez potentially rejoining the club for the midweek series with the Diamondbacks and Hawkins possibly returning for the weekend series with the Royals, barring setbacks in either case.

Byung-Hyung Kim is not far behind, having made his fifth appearance for Colorado Springs on Saturday night in what is projected to be a six-start rehab assignment. Kim pitched six innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out seven, earning no decision in a game the Sky Sox went on to win to extend their streak to six. He threw 95 pitches, 65 of which were strikes, and he was comfortable throwing his slider, the one pitch that had been problematic with his thumb injury.

"He gave up a scratch run early and a wind-blown Texas bloop for a two-run homer to a left-hander," manager Clint Hurdle reported Sunday. "His sequences are good and clean, he's keeping the ball away. They would like to see him pitch in more. He's not. There's some progress there. He's healthy."

Additionally, second baseman Kazuo Matsui (lower back spasms) is en route to Tucson, Ariz., for extended Spring Training, where he will begin drill work and play three innings in a game Monday.

"It'll be touch-and-feel as we move forward," Hurdle said. "We want to push him as long as there's no residual setbacks, pain or soreness. We'll get him a few innings on the field and maybe one or two at-bats."

Hurdle thought Matsui had a chance at rejoining the Rockies within 10 days if all goes well as he builds up playing time in Tucson. He and Taveras had shown the ability to be a dangerous one-two punch at the top of the order, with Matsui hitting .361 before going on the disabled list April 15 and both bringing their considerable speed into play whenever they're on the basepaths.

Rodrigo Lopez, 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts before hitting the DL with a right elbow strain April 19, will pitch a second round of live batting practice to the Rockies midweek and will eventually embark on a rehab assignment as he builds arm strength back up before returning to the rotation.

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"When people get healthy and they get here, we've got a chance of maybe being better," Hurdle said. "But our focus is on 'we have what we have.' We've got to be better with what we have, and we can be. The dynamic running game, that's out the window. The way you want to set your bullpen up, we've put that on hold. You got your pitcher that had probably the three cleanest starts of anybody in the rotation, you had to put him on ice. We'll go from there."

Rivera revving up: Highly touted Mexican League pitcher Oscar Rivera made his first start for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers on Saturday, throwing three innings and allowing no earned runs on one hit and two walks. He was charged with the loss after allowing three unearned runs.

"He topped at 85 mph," Hurdle said. "There's still questions about arm strength, but as far as command and being out there, it was a step forward."

The Rockies invited Rivera to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee on the recommendation of special assistant Vinny Castilla, but early arm trouble kept them from getting a good look at him.

Who's on first? Walt Weiss made his first appearance as a base coach in a regular-season Major League game Friday, filling in for Glenallen Hill, who was in the third-base box while coach Mike Gallego was away for personal reasons.

"I'd have to go out of my way to try and screw things up over there," Weiss said of the new challenge. "There's certainly responsibility over there. But it's just nice being part of the action. It's a different perspective, but it's nice being on the field."

Weiss -- the 1988 American League Rookie of the Year, an All-Star shortstop who played on four World Series teams and a key member of the Rockies from 1994-97 -- has been content to remain a special assistant to the general manager over the past six seasons, rather than make a full-time coaching commitment while raising his four sons.

"I'd like to be in the game; I don't know when," Weiss said of the possibility of taking more responsibility on a coaching staff someday. "They've given me some opportunities over here, but with my family situation, the time hasn't been right. Eventually I'd like to be out there full time."

On tap: Jason Hirsh (2-3, 4.10 ERA) continues his tour of future Hall of Famers on Tuesday, taking on Randy Johnson (0-2, 6.00) and the Diamondbacks at 6:35 p.m. MT.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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