DENVER -- Center fielder Dexter Fowler started the season so slowly that the Rockies kept him away from the top of the batting order. Now few leadoff hitters can match his performance. Fowler's .394 on-base percentage in 55 games in the leadoff spot going into Tuesday night's game against the Giants was surpassed only by the .409 of the Cardinals' Jon Jay. However, Jay had been leadoff man in just 32 contests. The Angels' Mike Trout nearly matched Fowler, with .393 in 117 games at the top of the order. Fowler has a career-high 13 homers and 41 extra-base hits, and his .902 on-base plus slugging percentage is tops among National League leadoff men. Fowler's overall on-base percentage of .394 -- in 128 games, at any spot in the order -- also ranked fourth in the NL among players qualified for the batting title.
With Fowler adjusting to a new swing and a new body after an intense offseason training program with teammates Troy Tulowitzki and Jason Giambi, it made sense that he would struggle through Spring Training and the early going. But the swing came back in late May, and Fowler became the regular leadoff man. There was a period where injuries to other key players forced manager Jim Tracy to use the switch-hitting Fowler in the No. 3 spot. At the time of his struggles, there were calls from fans and media to remove him from the lineup entirely. Tracy also started Tyler Colvin in center briefly. But Fowler never lost confidence. "I always know it's a process -- that's exactly what it is," Fowler said. "You've just got to keep moving forward, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Possibly the most impressive part of Fowler's season has been how he has rebounded from a right ankle sprain that didn't force him to the disabled list but limited him to pinch-hit duty for the final week of August. In his first nine games since returning to the lineup, Fowler hit .333 with a .400 on-base percentage, three doubles and a home run. "I believe a lot of it is mental," Fowler said. "You've got to ask the trainers, 'Is it going to get worse?' If they say it's just going to hurt, you've got to go with it. Just keep treating it and hope it gets better."