DENVER -- Not long after Troy Tulowitzki stepped into the Rockies' clubhouse Saturday, teammates stopped by his locker to offer hugs and words of support.
The disappointment was clear on Tulowitzki's face, but he was resolute in his first public appearance since he broke a rib Thursday diving for a ground ball. The injury will keep him out for four to six weeks during the heart of a season in which he was putting up Most Valuable Player-worthy numbers.
Tulowitzki said he felt immediate pain when he came up from the diving stop and knew it was more than a routine bruise.
"It was tough to take," Tulowitzki said. "I knew something was wrong when I was coming off the field. I couldn't run, I couldn't hit, I couldn't do anything and I knew there was a possibility it was broken."
The injury marks the latest hurdle for Tulowitzki in a career riddled by injuries, as he never returned from a groin injury that knocked him out at the end of May last year. Manager Walt Weiss said Tulowitzki had dealt with rib soreness before breaking the rib, but Tulowitzki said while it could have weakened the area, it was never a serious enough injury to keep him off the diamond.
Helping to ease the pain was that the injury came on an aggressive play in a tight game. This was not something he could have prevented with any type of precautionary treatment, leaving no room for regret.
"Originally, I was very emotional," he said. "I worked so hard to get back and have a good year, and team-wise we were doing good. But now, a day later, things start to sink in and you realize that this is still a good team that we are putting out on the field."
It did not take long after news spread of Tulowitzki's injury that the messages started pouring in from across the Major League Baseball landscape. They came not just from mentors and close friends like veteran slugger Jason Giambi, his teammate in Colorado for four seasons, but also came from more unfamiliar faces around the league, players with whom he had more bumped into than established tight bonds.
"More than anything, it showed that I go about my business the right way, because those guys wanted to reach out," Tulowitzki said. "Guys on different teams that I didn't even know really, found my number and texted me. So that meant a lot to me. I thank those guys. And I'll remember that and I'll reach out if guys get hurt, because I know it helped."
If the Rockies can somehow stay in the National League West race without a critical piece in the middle of the order and an outstanding infield arm and glove, Tulowitzki will be back to help with the second-half push. And he said he is confident this team has the talent to contend without him.
"It's not like some miracle is going to happen and we win a whole bunch of games because I'm back," Tulowitzki said. "We could easily struggle when I come back, as well. I believe in this team and I believe we will be right there when I do come back."
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.