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Tracy Ringolsby

Injury bug taking big bite out of Rockies' season

Tulowitzki latest core player to hit the disabled list during tough year

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Injury bug taking big bite out of Rockies' season play video for Injury bug taking big bite out of Rockies' season

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

DENVER -- What kind of season has it been for Rockies manager Walt Weiss?

Well, when it was mentioned on Tuesday afternoon that right fielder Michael Cuddyer, on the disabled list with a fractured left shoulder socket, was so optimistic after his latest examination that he's talking about actually being back in the lineup by mid-August, a huge grin spread across Weiss' face.

"That's encouraging," said Weiss.

An encouraging word in a discouraging season.

The medical report from Cuddyer was sandwiched between Monday's decision to place Justin Morneau on the disabled list with a neck strain, and Tuesday's decision to put All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on the DL for the sixth time in seven years with a left hip flexor strain.

It's another residual from that left quadriceps tendon that Tulowitzki tore back on April 29, 2008, in San Francisco, an issue that he has worked to conquer to the degree that he will sleep in a hyperbaric chamber, has a series of stretch exercises that would wear down a rubber man, has made a series of dietary adjustments and eliminated alcohol.

"It is tough," Tulowitzki said. "As hard as I work to try and stay healthy. This whole year I've done a decent job at it."

Tulowitzki shook his head, and he added, "It's always going to be a battle for me, with my injury history. … Obviously, [with] the quad tear in '08, it's been an uphill battle because all the other muscles have to work that much harder."

For Tulowitzki, this had actually been a pretty good year, until the decision on Tuesday. He had taken an occasional day off when he felt some tightness in the left thigh, but had appeared in 91 of Colorado's first 98 games, and was having an National League MVP Award-type season. Tulowitzki is leading the NL with a .340 average, a .432 on-base percentage, a .603 slugging percentage and a 1.035 OPS.

For the Rockies, the ailment for Tulowitzki is merely the latest chapter in a season gone wrong.

It's not merely that Colorado has used the disabled list 20 times this season or that the club has had nine players make their Major League debut this season, the most of any team in the NL. It's who and when and why.

Jorge De La Rosa is the only starting pitcher who hasn't missed a start, and he has battled through lower back tightness and a recurring blister on his left index finger. The Nos. 2-3-4-5-6 hitters -- Cuddyer, Carlos Gonzalez, Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado and Morneau -- have all spent time on the disabled list.

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but on May 20, the Rockies were 26-20 and just two games back in the NL West. After a 7-4 loss to Washington at Coors Field on Tuesday night that extended their latest losing streak to seven games, they had lost 40 of 54 games since, and found themselves in last place in the NL West, 3 1/2 games behind the fourth-place D-backs and 16 games behind the division-leading Giants.

Since May 20, all five of those hitters in the core of the lineup have hit the DL.

In one six-day stretch, they had three starting pitchers make their big league debuts.

The bullpen has been worn down. It is not just that they have worked 184 innings in the last 54 games, more than three innings a game, but the relievers have a 5.53 ERA. That's the highest in the Majors, and it is 1.61 runs per nine innings higher than Milwaukee's bullpen, which ranks 14th in the NL at 3.92. And it is not just the fact that they have injured players, but it is the injuries.

Cuddyer, a right fielder, was moved to third base for defensive purposes in the top of the eighth inning of what became a 12-7 loss to the D-backs on June 5. On the first three batters in the top of the ninth, he made three diving attempts to catch balls, fracturing the shoulder socket in the process.

The Rockies had two players placed on the DL because of viral infections -- catcher Wilin Rosario and infielder Josh Rutledge.

Colorado has had four players hit the shelf with broken fingers -- Arenado, sliding headfirst; starting pitcher Brett Anderson, hitting a ball off the end of the bat; starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, making a tag at home plate, and Christian Bergman, when he was hit by a line drive on his left wrist.

Gonzalez had a fissure in his left index finger removed, and lefty Boone Logan is now on the disabled list with diverticulitis.

And now Tulowitzki.

"I think Tulo understands," said Weiss.

He does.

"This is more serious than the hiccups I had [earlier in the season]," said Tulowitzki.

For the Rockies, though, it's another pothole in the road that they have followed in a 2014 season gone bad.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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