SAN DIEGO -- Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez returned to the starting lineup Wednesday night -- a day earlier than expected.
Gonzalez, who leads the National League with 24 home runs, sprained his right middle finger Sunday against the D-backs. He was supposed to take batting practice Wednesday and return Thursday against the Dodgers, but he was in the lineup during the afternoon and batting practice went well enough that he wasn't scratched before the game against the Padres.
After the Rockies' depleted lineup was shut out on four hits Tuesday night by Padres left-hander Eric Stults, Gonzalez quickened his timetable.
"I was swinging a little bit last night to see if I could pinch-hit," Gonzalez said. "I want to play. I want to be in there. I know it's going to be a little sore.
"I'm just glad to be back and feel a little better."
The Rockies' lineup is creeping back to normal. Center fielder Dexter Fowler is almost certain to be activated Thursday after sitting out with a right hand injury, and the Rockies will evaluate shortstop and cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki on Thursday and possibly activate him during the Dodgers series.
"If we go out and stay healthy, it should be good for us," Gonzalez said. "We have a very important series coming. We'll try to finish the first half strong."
Gonzalez said he expects to participate in the Chevrolet Home Run Derby on Monday night and the All-Star Game on Tuesday. He and Tulowitzki have been elected starters. But if his finger is bothering him badly, he could change his mind.
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.