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Cook returns right on time for Rockies

Cook returns right on time for Rockies

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DENVER -- Just before pitching the Rockies into the playoffs, Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook took his son, Elijah, out for a haircut. Cook emerged from the event with only a reddish blond strip down the middle.

"We got matching Mohawks," Cook said with a laugh.

Why not get his fashion sense from a little boy? It's fitting. That's about how Cook feels.

Pulse
Rockies at a glance
2009 record: 92-70
2008 record: 74-88
Clinched NL Wild Card
NLDS matchup:
Rockies at Phillies
Postseason tix: Information

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Gonzalez: Bat on fire
Bullpen: Hitting stride
Gonzalez: Rewarding Rox
Giambi: Impact beyond bat
Tulowitzki: Ready for return
Cook: Returns right on time
Barmes: Credit to Tracy
Marquis: Living in moment
Ubaldo: Big-game pitcher
Helton/Giambi: Leaders
Stewart: Emerging star
Tracy: Quiet leader
Street: Mutual admiration
De La Rosa: Earning trust
Ubaldo: Sending a message
Helton: Resurgent slugger
Morales: On the attack
Tulowitzki: Vigorous finish

In 2007, when the Rockies made an unexpected trip to the World Series, Cook spent much of that time with tedious adult pursuits, like injury rehab. An oblique strain that Cook suffered in August knocked him out of the late-season run to the playoffs, as well as the first two rounds. Cook returned to pitch well in Game 4 of the World Series, but he lost and the Rockies were swept.

This year was almost more of the same. Cook suffered a shoulder injury on Aug. 21 and spent five weeks working his way back to the mound. But he made it. Even more, he made the Rockies better.

In his final two regular-season starts, Cook went 1-0 and gave up one earned run in 13 innings. He went five scoreless innings in his return, a 2-1 Rockies victory over the Cardinals. On Thursday, his eight-inning, one-run effort in a 9-2 victory over the Brewers clinched the Rockies' second playoff spot in three years.

This time, Cook won't have to deal with the disappointment that occurred in 2007. By the National League Championship Series, Cook felt healthy enough, but then-manager Clint Hurdle believed he did not have enough rehab time. Franklin Morales started Game 4.

Nothing has been announced for the NL Division Series against the Phillies, but it's likely that Ubaldo Jimenez will start Game 1 on Wednesday, with Cook starting Game 2 on Thursday. The two strong starts, in which Cook threw 76 and 85 pitches, respectively, allayed any fears that the injury cost him sharpness. In those games, he has forced a combined 26 ground-ball outs, against 10 outs in the air.

"It was fun being out there and competing," Cook said. "After a month of sitting around the clubhouse, you're bored and you're not really feeling a part of the team."

With no health concerns, Cook figures to have a prominent spot in the Rockies' rotation.

"[Manager Jim] Tracy has tough decisions to make, and whatever he decides to go with is what we're going to do," Cook said. "I'll go as long as I can, and when he's ready to take it out of my hands, he'll give it to somebody else.

"No matter what he does, I agree with what he's doing. He gave me the chance to pitch these last two outings. I went out there and just pounded my strike zone, threw my sinker, and let the defense work behind me. And fortunately we scored enough runs to win the games."

The injury has led Cook to make an adjustment to his normal routine. Until now, Cook has rarely iced his shoulder between starts. He had elbow surgery in the Minors, but until this season, he had never experienced a shoulder issue.

"I'm doing it now, as a precautionary measure -- ice and stim [electronic stimulation] between starts and on bullpen days for the last month," Cook said. "I haven't had any complications or soreness. I can throw full bullpens and play long toss."

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

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