Notes: Ramirez brings stability to 'pen

Notes: Ramirez provides stability

DENVER -- A shaky Rockies bullpen received a possible stabilizing force when right-hander Ramon Ramirez returned for Tuesday night's game against the Diamondbacks, after missing 23 games with an elbow sprain.

Ramirez had held opponents to a .157 batting average (3-for-19) and had let just 1-of-7 inherited runners score in seven scoreless appearances before the injury.

The starters bear some responsibility because of inconsistent command, but a revolving bullpen is one reason the Rockies posted a 6.23 ERA over 16 games going into Tuesday. Ramirez was missed.

"I felt I was helping the team before I got hurt," Ramirez said. "It's good to feel they need me, and I'm going to try my best to help as much as I can."

Corpas spent much of his time out of the lineup at the team's training center in Tucson, Ariz., and said the warmer weather helped his recovery. He appeared in two games at Triple-A Colorado Springs, also.

The Rockies hope Ramirez and rookie Manny Corpas, who carried a disproportionate share of the load with Ramirez and LaTroy Hawkins out, can work as a tandem to set up closer Brian Fuentes, who had succeeded on nine of his 10 save chances.

"He'll definitely be pitching heightened innings," manager Clint Hurdle said of Ramirez.

Help from an old friend: Rockies special front-office assistant Mark Wiley will soon join the club to work with new right-handed reliever Jorge Julio, acquired Sunday from the Marlins for right-hander Byung-Hyun Kim.

Wiley was pitching coach with the Orioles and helped Julio develop into a closer who earned 83 saves from 2002-04. Julio had 16 saves last season, one with the Mets and the rest with the Diamondbacks. Julio did not have a save in 10 apppearances with the Marlins this season.

Hurdle said Julio has "a clean chalkboard." Not wanting to put a struggling reliever under pressure, Hurdle said the initial plan is to use Julio as the first reliever after the starter, as early as the sixth inning.

Four of Julio's saves last season came against the Rockies. It was the most Julio had against any club. At times Julio raised the ire of the Rockies with hard pitches that forced batters to duck and scurry. Julio said he simply had trouble controlling his four-seam and two-seam fastballs in the atmosphere. The latter was especially an issue.

Now Hurdle has a different view.

"I told him, 'Don't lose that pitch, because that's a good pitch,'" Hurdle said.

Injury report: Right-handed starter Rodrigo Lopez, out with a forearm strain near the elbow, pitched three innings in an extended Spring Training game in Tucson. He gave up two hits and two runs, one earned, with no walks and three strikeouts.

According to the report Hurdle received, Lopez displayed better command of his fastball than his slider.

It isn't clear if his next outing will be in extended Spring Training or in the Minors.

Second baseman Kazuo Matsui, on the disabled list since April 15 with a back strain, played four innings in an extended Spring Training game on Monday and did some sliding drills. He was scheduled to play five innings Tuesday, and the game would be arranged so he can have six plate appearances.

Hawkins was scheduled to pitch for Colorado Springs Tuesday night.

Up next: Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook (2-1, 4.38 ERA) will face D-Backs righty Brandon Webb (3-2, 3.32).

Thomas Harding is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.