DENVER -- Rockies rookie Troy Tulowitzki had his teammates falling over laughing in the clubhouse before one game this season, when he was fielding ground balls by standing in a bucket and hopping around to get to each ball. Every day in batting practice, Tulowitzki works on off-balance throws, jump throws and other improbable plays. His unorthodox training techniques, which translate to spectacular plays in the field, could make Tulowitzki the first rookie shortstop to win a Rawlings Gold Glove. "I was talking to a guy today who has nothing to do with our ball club and his comment was, 'if that guy doesn't win the Gold Glove, it'd be very unfortunate because he's probably one of the most deserving of the Gold Glove,'" manager Clint Hurdle said. "This is a guy who watches all games, who has nothing to do with our club."
Tulowitzki's numbers support his case. Entering Saturday's game, he led Major League shortstops in total chances (750), assists (506), double plays (107) and his .985 fielding percentage was third among National League shortstops. Tulowitzki's consistent play comes from expecting perfection. He said he's read books by Cal Ripken, who said he would run on the treadmill after he made an error, a strategy Tulowitzki has implemented. "It's more than anything to tell yourself it's not OK," he said. "Sometimes people accept failure and I'm a person that definitely doesn't." But it's Tulowitzki's flair for the spectacular that set him apart. Last week in Philadelphia, he backhanded a ball in the hole and threw across his body in the air, floating the ball right to Todd Helton's glove for an out. "He had the third-base coach for Philadelphia locked up for about a minute," Hurdle said. "Completely locked up. It's something he works on every day; it's not just something he pulled out of his back pocket." Tulowitzki said he's been working on plays like the one he made in Philly since he was a child. He'd come up with drills at home in the living room and then have his dad throw him ground balls. "I think one way to try to improve your abilities on defense is you try to make plays that people would think are spectacular, and a lot of people try them once or twice, but I'm always out there messing around and trying to do jump throws," Tulowitzki said. "If I could flip like Ozzie [Smith], I'd be doing that, spinning around, doing everything I can. "When you do that stuff, it improves your range and you never know what play you're going to get in the game. You've got to be ready to throw from any angle and that definitely helps me just messing around." Helton's Gold Glove credentials: Hurdle feels Helton should get his fourth Gold Glove this season. His numbers, like Tulowitzki's, make a strong case. Entering Saturday, Helton led first basemen with a .999 fielding percentage, matching his career best in 2001 when he won his first Gold Glove. That season he only made two errors, his total for 2007. "He's worked very hard on his defense this year," Hurdle said. "As I look around the league and watch people play, he's as good as anybody out there and the numbers back it up. I think he's been exceptional this year in the dirt, picking throws, as good as he's ever been. "If he'd represent the National League with the Gold Glove, I don't think anybody would blink an eye." September surge: Entering Saturday, Matt Holliday had homered in five of his last six games and had six homers during that stretch. The All-Star left fielder has seven homers, 15 RBIs and has scored 14 runs this month. Since 2005, Holliday leads the league in September hits (81), runs (63) and ranks fourth with 22 homers. Next up: The Rockies finish their three-game series with the Marlins on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. MT. Rookie lefty Franklin Morales (1-2, 4.84 ERA) will go against Marlins lefty Scott Olsen (9-13, 5.81 ERA).
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.