Notes: Matsui embroiled in recent slump

Notes: Matsui embroilted in slump

DENVER -- Kazuo Matsui helped start the Rockies' rally Monday night when he walked in the eighth inning and eventually scored on Matt Holliday's home run.

But Matsui hasn't been on the basepaths much lately. He went into Tuesday night's game against the Padres hitless in his last 13 at-bats and has gone 3-for-31 since the All-Star break. Since going 5-for-5 against the Mets on July 3, he is 7-for-50.

"The more 'Kaz' and Willy [Taveras] get on, the more we go and can roll," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.

Hurdle has held Matsui out of the lineup against left-handed pitchers, because of his .264 average against them. But lately, he also hasn't hit well against righties. Hurdle said teams have started to pitch him differently. Matsui sees it differently.

"Sometimes I hit well," he said. "Sometimes I don't."

The Rockies have had success when Matsui's bat is working. The team is 23-12 when Matsui gets at least one hit. Since he returned from over a month on the disabled list because of lower back spasms on May 20, the Rockies have gone 32-24.

Comfortable in the 'pen: Rockies reliever Taylor Buchholz had his first relief appearance last night since returning to the bullpen last Wednesday. Buchholz threw two shutout innings and got his fourth victory in relief.

Buchholz wanted to be starter before the season. He was a starter in the Minor Leagues and got his chance to start this season when Rodrigo Lopez went on the disabled list. But with a 1-3 record and 5.98 ERA as a starter and 1.20 ERA in relief appearances since moving to the bullpen in early June, he's done a 180 on his starter preference.

"There's something about it," Buchholz said. "I'm able to focus in a lot better. I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's a mental thing. But it feels right when I'm coming out of the pen."

Buchholz moved back to starter temporarily last week because of the injury to Jason Hirsh. After giving up six runs in four innings last Monday in Pittsburgh, he moved back to the bullpen.

Hurdle said he felt Buchholz was a better fit in pen coming out of spring training.

"He does give you an option if you need a sixth starter or spot starter," Hurdle said. "That's still a role that he'll probably dabble in as he moves forward. My only question is why he feels more comfortable, is it all result-oriented? If it's all result-oriented, that's something I think he'll grow out of as he continues to pitch and get more experience. I know he felt differently this spring."

Hirsh back: Hirsh returned to the Rockies clubhouse Tuesday, but he's not ready to return from the disabled list to the rotation.

However, Hirsh did take a step in that direction Monday night in his second rehab start for Triple-A Colorado Springs. The Rockies rookie went five innings, yielding two runs, one earned, against Fresno. It was a vast improvement from his first rehab start, Thursday, when he lasted only 1 2/3 innings and gave up six runs on six hits.

"I felt fantastic last night," he said. "I didn't feel like I was impinged at all by my ankle, felt like I could do anything I wanted."

Hurdle said after Hirsh's first rehab start he wanted him to throw more fastballs. Hirsh said he threw 60 percent fastballs in Fresno. But it wasn't the fastball that caused him trouble in his first start, but rather a tape job.

"I had trouble pushing off with the tape job impeding me," he said. "But the last start we switched up the tape job and made it a little bit lighter because I was feeling better and I think the result showed for that."

Hirsh said he would make another start with Colorado Springs Saturday and throw 85 pitches. He said he hopes to rejoin the Rockies rotation after Saturday.

Reprieve for Helton: Todd Helton's two scored errors on July 16 in Pittsburgh have been overturned by Major League Baseball. Hurdle sent a tape to the league office to be reviewed. The first play in the fourth inning was changed to an error on Buchholz and Buchholz was given an assist. The second was changed to an infield hit for the Pirates Nate McLouth.

Sky Sox mourn Coolbaugh's death: The Colorado Springs Sky Sox flew their flags at half mast Tuesday night in remembrance of former Sky Sox Mike Coolbaugh.

Coolbaugh died Sunday after being struck in the head by a line drive in the ninth inning of a game between the Tulsa Drillers and Little Rock Travelers in Little Rock, Ark.

Coolbaugh played for Triple-A Colorado Springs in 1998 and hit .277 with 16 homers and 75 RBIs in 108 games. He rejoined the Rockies organization this season as Double-A Tulsa's hitting coach.

Up next: The Rockies finish their series with the Padres Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. at Coors Field. Right-hander Aaron Cook (6-6, 4.37 ERA) will pitch for the Rockies and righty Justin Germano (6-4, 3.77 ERA) for the Padres.

C.J. Moore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.