Gonzalez close to returning for Rockies

Gonzalez close to returning for Rox

DENVER -- The Rockies started their series with the Dodgers three games back in the National League West and two men down on the roster, playing without their regular center and left fielders, who double as their leadoff and No. 2 men in the batting order.

"We have placed Dexter Fowler on the disabled list with a deep bruise to the inside part of his right knee," manager Jim Tracy said before Tuesday's opener. "Carlos Gonzalez is much closer. I think he may take a few swings tonight and he may not, but we're very hopeful that by tomorrow, and no later than Thursday, he would be ready to go."

The two rookies have shown their ability to play through pain, with center fielder Fowler suffering his injury by fouling a ball off the inside of his knee in the 14th-inning game-winning rally against the Giants on Monday. After an agonizing several minutes on the ground at home plate and a few more minutes testing his knee and his swing, Fowler continued the at-bat, coaxing a leadoff walk and eventually scoring before hitting the disabled list Tuesday.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, entered the game in the 10th inning as a pinch-runner for Todd Helton, despite the fact that he is still recovering from an injury to his throwing hand after an accident with a steak knife over the weekend. He was unable to hit and not quite cleared to field, but he ended up doing both before the game was over.

"We were tied, and I knew I was going to pinch-run in a very important situation," Gonzalez said. "They put me in for Helton, but I was not prepared for playing in the outfield. I thought I was only going to run, and then they decided to put me in the outfield. It was really hard for me to throw the ball. But I'm glad I did everything possible."

With the extra innings taking its toll on the Rockies' bench, Gonzalez went above and beyond by staying in the lineup when his turn came around to bat in Helton's place in the 12th.

"That was a very scary moment when I stepped to the plate," Gonzalez said. "They told me to just take strikes, but it's hard for me to just stand there and not be able to do anything. I tried to do the best and get on base with a bunt, even though they knew that was the only possibility for me. I was just trying to do my best and get on base."

The hand is improving, and Gonzalez agreed with Tracy's timeline for a return to full action, stepping up his activity and working to get back in the lineup before the Dodgers leave town.

"It was better today," he said of the one-stitch laceration in the fat part of the hand at the base of the thumb. "I was able to hit off the tee and [off] some soft toss. It feels good. Way better than yesterday. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to hit BP, and maybe in two or three days, I'll be able to be in the lineup."

One way or another, Gonzalez is determined to stay on the big league roster and off the disabled list.

"We've been fighting for a [playoff] spot for the last few months," Gonzalez said. "It's not a good time to be away from the team. I want to stay here and keep battling and do something for the team."

The attitude epitomizes the spirit in the Rockies' dugout, and Tracy called Monday's win one of the most exciting games he's been a part of in 33 years of professional baseball, in large part because of heroics like Fowler's and Gonzalez's.

"We had an injured player playing, and we injured another player during the course of the comeback with the foul ball," Tracy said. "Trying to win the game in the 10th inning with a pinch-runner with stitches in his hand and he can catch it and throw it but he can't swing. And then you get involved where he's playing and he gets to take an at-bat and you know the only thing he can try to do is bunt.

"The beauty of our baseball team since the latter part of May is they can't spell the word 'quit.' They can't spell that word. If you ask them to spell it, they make a liar out of me and spell it for you, but I'm telling you they don't understand what the word 'quit' means."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.