Notes: Taveras returns; Atkins to sit

Notes: Taveras returns; Atkins to sit

DENVER -- With his smashed and lacerated right index fingernail glued, bandaged and taped, Rockies center fielder Willy Taveras admitted still feeling pain, but returned to the lineup for Friday night's opener of a three-game series with the Reds.

Taveras missed three games after suffering the injury attempting to bunt on Monday night. It's the second time Taveras' finger has suffered the consequences of squaring around -- he needed stitches in his middle finger in 2006, while with the Astros.

Nonetheless, Taveras will still put his fingers in harm's way. He leads the Majors with 13 bunt hits. So what happens if ball meets finger again, especially when finger is still throbbing? He said he didn't plan on wearing a specially padded batting glove.

"If it's uncomfortable, I might cut it off," Taveras joked.

Taveras has been fulfilling the Rockies' expectations for a leadoff man to the tune of a .312 batting average and .381 on-base percentage in 155 plate appearances as leadoff man (fourth-best among NL leadoff hitters).

To keep helping the club, he must avoid further injury. Taveras admitted that the finger could give him difficulty throwing as well as hitting.

"I'll see how it feels," Taveras said. "I hit a little bit better yesterday [in batting practice], and I threw a little bit better."

Time down for Atkins: Acting on an idea he floated earlier this week, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle started Jeff Baker ahead of slumping third baseman Garrett Atkins.

Hurdle said Atkins is still the third baseman, but maybe sitting for a few days will give him a different perspective on how to approach improving his performance (.223, three homers, 20 RBIs) and approaching last year's performance (.329, 29 home runs, 120 RBIs).

"I'm going to try to give Garrett a little down time here and just let him watch," Hurdle said. "We had an offensive-specific, hitting-specific conversation on some things he's been able to do well in the past, the inconsistencies that have come up and the way to find his way back.

"We'll give 'Bake' an opportunity to get out there and put a couple games together."

Hurdle did not say how many games he had in mind. Baker, a part-time player and pinch-hitter this year as a rookie, entered with a .224 average, two homers and six RBIs.

On the Rox: The Rockies also started right-handed-hitting Jamey Carroll at second base instead of switch-hitting Kazuo Matsui, who had played four straight games. Matsui missed 33 games, from April 15 to May 20, with a back strain, and Hurdle wants to make sure he doesn't create another injury. Carroll had appeared in just one of the previous seven games. ... Veteran reliever Mike DeJean, trying to complete his comeback from a shoulder injury that shelved him early last season, faced hitters during a brief session at Coors on Friday. DeJean, on a rehab assignment at Double-A Tulsa, was in town with his wife, Holly, for the birth of his son -- Ryder Helton Charles DeJean (partially named for teammate Todd Helton). The Rockies decided to let him get his work in before Friday's game. ... Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki entered Friday leading Major League rookies in hits (53), runs (28) and multihit games (14). He also led Major League shortstops in assists (179), putouts (95) and total chances (279).

Up next: Left-hander Jeff Francis (4-4, 3.93 ERA) will start against Reds righty Kyle Lohse (2-6, 4.59) Saturday at 6:05 p.m.

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