Notes: Hurdle re-evaluating lineup

Notes: Hurdle re-evaluating lineup

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle likes his batting order plan, which sparks plenty of musing from those outside the club. It worked last season. After switching Matt Holliday into the third spot, with Todd Helton fourth and Garrett Atkins fifth, the Rockies marched to the World Series.

But Holliday has become the main power source in the lineup, sparking questions as to whether he and Helton should switch.

"From the managerial view from the other dugout, which I'm more concerned about than that of the fan, it presented a lot bigger challenges," Hurdle said, explaining his original decision. "There's a lot bigger respect given to Todd Helton as an offensive force, regardless what you see or I see. And I think it helped set up Matt in the three spot.

"One of the staples I was brought up with is you have your best hitter in the lineup hit third. Then to flip it, right-left-right-left, we created some diversity through the lineup and some challenges for the [opponent's] bullpen."

Hurdle also said shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is a better fit at No. 2, even though he's a power guy. Last year's No. 2, Kazuo Matsui, relied more on speed.

Tulowitzki was slightly better at the second spot (.298, .366 on-base percentage) than in the seventh spot (.294, .359) and has said he is more comfortable high in the order. Tulowitzki has arrived trimmer and is concentrating on baserunning to be more effective behind the leadoff man, speedster Willy Taveras.

Plus, Hurdle said it's a matter of opportunity.

"It gives him probably one more at-bat a game at second than seventh," Hurdle said. "You're sacrificing that at-bat, because if you get that far down into the lineup, you're probably going to lose an at-bat if you do the math."

Other equations present pros and cons to Tulowitzki batting seventh.

According to STATS Inc., No. 6 hitter Brad Hawpe hit .312 with a .403 on-base percentage in the 55 games (202 at-bats) that Tulowitzki hit behind him in the No. 7 hole. Overall, Hawpe hit .291 with a .387 on-base percentage.

On the other side, Hawpe's .559 overall slugging percentage was slightly higher than the .535 he managed with Tulowitzki behind him. He also hit a home run once every 17.8 at-bats overall but once every 20.2 at-bats ahead of Tulowitzki.

As it stands, catcher Yorvit Torrealba will bat seventh and whoever wins the second-base job stands to hit eighth. To drop Tulowitzki to seventh and Torrealba to eighth, the second baseman will have to bring skills that work at No. 2.

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Pushing for late duty: Ryan Speier spent most of last season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he led the Pacific Coast League with 33 saves. In August and September, Speier went 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA. He also made three postseason appearances and earned his first Major League save with a scoreless inning in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

The Rockies have plenty of experience late in the game setting up closer Manny Corpas in the form of Luis Vizcaino, Brian Fuentes and Matt Herges. But Speier could merit later consideration as the season progresses. He could be forced into heightened innings immediately if Herges is suspended for being identified as having used performance-enhancing drugs.

Speier said the end of last season quickened his maturation.

"I'm not really that young anymore," said Speier, 27. "I think it's definitely time to be trying to earn a role here on this team, more than just kind of a fill-in guy. I think there's definitely opportunity here."

Short Friday: The Rockies' position players are technically due to report Friday, but it'll be a short day at Hi Corbett Field.

Hurdle will leave during the afternoon for Oakland, where he will be the main attraction at a "pregame mixer" before the Golden State Warriors' game against the Atlanta Hawks as part of Prader-Willi Syndrome Awareness Night. Hurdle's 5-year-old daughter, Madison, was born with the genetic defect. Hurdle's 22-year-old daughter, Ashley, is a group sales account executive for the Warriors.

Hurdle will be back for the first full-squad workout Saturday afternoon.

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