After filling in for Tulo, Herrera turns in defensive gem

After filling in for Tulo, Herrera turns in defensive gem

LOS ANGELES -- Rockies infielder Jonathan Herrera's playing opportunities are sporadic and his chances at shortstop, his natural position, are rare.

But Herrera, who replaced Troy Tulowitzki in the third inning of Sunday's 4-2 loss to the D-backs, after Tulowitzki suffered a mild left rotator cuff strain, made the most of his opportunity with a highlight backhand play and strong throw during Sunday's seventh inning.

Herrera ranged to his right to backhand a Cliff Pennington grounder and make a twisting, leaping throw. It was the type of play the much bigger Tulowitzki makes with regularity. Teammates take to Herrera's energy, and the play gave the team a lift.

"Everybody was excited," Herrera said. "They know I can make plays like that, too. 'Tulo' has a couple of Gold Gloves. You can't compare with him. But I work hard, take a lot of ground balls during batting practice, and I've been working on it my whole life. I made that play a lot in the Minors.

"When I made that play, everybody felt happy. They were laughing in the dugout. Jordan [Pacheco, the first baseman on the other end of the throw] was like, 'That's great. You can make that play, too.'"

Herrera is employed because of his defense, but he has managed a .308 batting average and three RBIs. Herrera started Monday and batted eighth. Tulowitzki took batting practice indoors Monday and hoped to return Tuesday.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.