CLEVELAND -- The Rockies are giving center fielder Dexter Fowler time to find his lost left-handed-hitting stroke -- something that has to happen before the club addresses his future role.
The switch-hitting Fowler was on the disabled list with a left abdominal strain until Monday, when the club activated him from the DL, but immediately optioned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Fowler slumped before the injury and has a .238 average overall. From the left side, where most of his at-bats have come, he is hitting .242, but with 54 strikeouts in 157 at-bats.
Fowler struggled last year before being sent to Colorado Springs at the end of May. He was better after returning a month later. After the All-Star break, Fowler hit .280 with 12 doubles, seven of his Major League-leading 14 triples and four home runs.
However, Carlos Gonzalez, a reigning Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner, has moved from left field to center, and callup Charlie Blackmon has hit .378 in 12 games in left. Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Fowler has the athletic ability to play in the corners, just in case there isn't a starting role for him. But the conversation doesn't take place until Fowler hits.
In his first six games with Colorado Springs, technically an injury rehab assignment before Monday's move, Fowler has gone 3-for-33 (.098) with 10 strikeouts, one double and one walk.
"I'm one of the guys that were on record -- from what I had seen toward the end of last season and where he was headed with his swing, especially left-handed -- I really thought he was gaining, big time," Tracy said. "But he has slipped back a little bit. Now there's an opportunity for us to give him a number of at-bats left-handed."
In a recent meeting, Tracy said Fowler let it be known he wasn't interested in abandoning switch-hitting. Fowler is a natural right-handed hitter who didn't start switch-hitting until 2005, his first year of pro ball out of high school.
"With all of the effort he put into hitting from both sides of the plate, to drop the ball now, he's not interested in doing that," Tracy said. "That being the case, let him have another window of opportunity to work on things, if he can get to the point where he can shorten up that swing a little bit left-handed. Then we'll move on from there."
Tracy said the idea of Fowler playing corner positions was also discussed, but Tracy said the Rockies did not want to "put so many eggs in his basket, to where he has so many different things to think about." But Tracy said Fowler should have no problem playing in the corners if he has to be a multi-position backup.