Qualls still working to bounce back from illness

Qualls still working to bounce back from illness

DENVER -- Since coming off the 15-day disabled list with colitis, Rockies right-hander Chad Qualls has had to cope with pitching at a lower weight with less velocity.

Qualls, 38, missed over a month and dropped from 250 pounds to 236 pounds, although he's put about five more pounds on. As a result of the lost strength, his fastball velocity has dropped from 91.4 mph to 90.1 mph in his three games since coming off the DL.

"I keep telling myself that I'm the same person, but my fastball's down a little bit and my slider is down a little bit," Qualls said. "At this point in the season, it's kind of hard to build that strength back up, so I'm just trying to maintain where I'm at right now and try to locate and keep the ball down in the zone and get ground balls."

Qualls has had mixed results, and his 10.13 ERA in three appearances is inflated by one in which he allowed three runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning. Impressively, he has struck out four and walked one in 2 2/3 innings.

"The key is the action on his pitches," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's got to have his two-seamer sinking, and when he does, he's very effective and makes them hit the top of the ball. He can mix in the slider off of that. He has two pitches going separate ways."

Although the sample size is rather small, Qualls has been getting more movement on his fastball. He has gotten nearly three-quarters of an inch of extra break on the 25 fastballs he's thrown compared to the fastballs he threw before the illness, according to Pitch-f/x data.

Qualls said he is not going to try to quickly add weight back on and hopes to come back next season at his current weight with more lean strength. He will be entering the final year of a two-year, $6 million contract he signed with Colorado last December.

Reynolds taking swings: Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds took swings in the batting cage for a third time Monday. He has been out since Aug. 12 with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. Weiss said there's a chance he returns before the end of the season.

"Hand injuries are tough," Weiss said. "It's one thing to go in there and hit off a tee or hit front toss or even batting practice, but to get in a game is a different level. When you talk about a hand injury it's tricky, but I do think it's possible. There's a lot still out in front of him that he has to be able to do before he gets into a game."

Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.