DENVER -- Patience is Rockies leadoff man Marco Scutaro's calling card.
In the season's first four games, Scutaro has a hit in three of them and is averaging 4.46 pitches per plate appearances, tops on his team and eighth in the National League, and has averaged more than four pitches a plate appearance twice in the last three years.
It's harder than it looks. Scutaro, like many leadoff hitters, is not physically imposing. He has 68 home runs in 1,106 career games. Many hitters like this have trouble drawing walks -- a trait that can make a hitter special to the top of the order -- because pitchers aren't afraid he'll make them pay with one swing. But although he didn't earn his first walk of the season until the first inning of Wednesday's game vs. the Giants, Scutaro has a healthy .338 career on-base percentage.
"Early in the count, I try to focus on my pitch, and if it's not there, I try not to swing at it," Scutaro said. "It sounds easy to say, but it's kind of hard to do. Then later in the count, or with two strikes, I just try to battle."
The pitch Scutaro wants is rarely the first one. He hasn't swung at a first pitch in the season's first four games and has offered at it just 489 times in 4,256 career plate appearances.
Yet 29 of his 117 first-pitch hits have gone for extra bases -- 24 doubles and five home runs. So there's enough in that bat to prevent pitchers from thinking it's an easy strike.
"At some point in my career, I tried to learn to hit the first pitch, because sometimes that's the best pitch to hit," he said. "So I'll mix it up, depending on how I feel, so they don't think I'll always take it. I'll try to ambush you."
Rockies hitting coach Carney Lansford said Scutaro uses brain as much as bat.
"He has a plan," Lansford said. "The other team gets the same scouting reports we get on their guys. He's just a professional hitter."