Same old Spilborghs shines as starter

Same old Spilborghs shines

DENVER -- The Rockies offered Ryan Spilborghs a new opportunity this season. His response was to be the same old guy.

In his first shot at regular appearances in the starting lineup, Spilborghs has gone 7-for-18 (.389), and his five doubles led the Majors through Friday. He hit safely in all four games.

Spilborghs has played center field and left field, and hit in each of the top three spots in the order. He has succeeded by not changing anything, no matter what his duties for a particular game. It's the same approach that worked for him in part-time duty the past two seasons.

"Maybe I'm just blocking out any extra pressures," Spilborghs said. "I'm not trying to make a name for myself. I'm just trying to win games."

Willy Taveras went into last season as the Rockies' leadoff man and center fielder. Taveras led the Majors with 68 stolen bases, but his .251 batting average and .301 on-base percentage led the Rockies to look in a different direction.

Colorado also performed poorly at the No. 2 spot, getting a .260 average with a .311 OBP.

Spilborghs, who performed well in the leadoff spot but had his impact reduced when he missed 47 games with a strained oblique muscle, had hit .297 with a .355 OBP in 165 career games before this season. Manager Clint Hurdle went into the winter believing Spilborghs could handle an increased role. He tested that belief by using Spilborghs in several different spots in the order this spring, and Spilborghs was presented with the Abby Greer Award as the Spring Training Most Valuable Player.

Spilborghs' start Saturday night against the Phillies was his third game in the leadoff spot. He also hit once in the second spot and once in the third spot -- when the club chose to rest Todd Helton in an effort to make sure the veteran first baseman's back holds up throughout the season.

Hurdle said it was a matter of Spilborghs making good on promises.

"It started for him at the end of last season with his exit interview," Hurdle said. "I had a lot of very strong statements and a very honest evaluation. It was about what he was going to focus on and what he could do better."

The good start comes after some difficult times.

Torn between staying in Denver with his ailing mother, Esperanza Spilborghs, and going to winter ball, Spilborghs made a brief trip to Mexico to shore up his play in center field. He was able to come back and spend time with his mother before Spring Training, but she passed away on Feb. 27 after a long battle with a lung disease. Spilborghs left camp upon hearing of her death, and again for a memorial service.

Spilborghs gradually worked through the understandable feelings. He announced that he and his wife, Stacey, will name their first child -- a daughter due in July -- Kierra Esperanza Spilborghs. Now he is settled into a season that's starting as well as he could have hoped.

"I'm kind of in a happy place," Spilborghs said. "I feel comfortable in the field. I feel comfortable at the plate. I just play the game."

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