Rutledge fine with role behind Tulo

Rutledge fine with role behind Tulo

SAN DIEGO -- It's not Josh Rutledge's fault that folks were not happy to see him at shortstop for the Rockies starting last month. But that's what happens when you're the replacement for injured National League batting leader Troy Tulowitzki.

Since July 20, the day Tulowitzki suffered a strained left hip flexor, Rutledge has started 16 of his 18 appearances. He was immediately strong offensively, but missed three games in late July with an upper respiratory infection. The six games leading up to Tuesday night's start against the Padres have been a 1-for-19 struggle. The slump has dragged his batting average for the 18 games down to .243.

There is no backup who can replace Tulowitzki, so Rutledge doesn't waste time trying to fill All-Star shoes.

"I don't really listen to that kind of stuff," said Rutledge, who overall was batting .270 with three home runs and 21 RBIs this season entering Tuesday. "I just come out here and try to help the team win. I know we've struggled but I like the effort. Sooner or later, it's got to turn. All we can do is keep playing."

Unless you're Tulowitzki or one of a few shortstops in the Majors, hitting for power isn't a job requirement at the position. For most, defense carries more weight than offense. Benefiting from being at his natural position, Rutledge is making strides as a defender in terms of positioning, understanding how his pitchers are executing and reading swings of the opponent.

"You just have to develop consistency to be an everyday guy in this league and that's where 'Rut' is at right now," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's starting to be more and more consistent as a defender. He's made some great plays going to his right and throwing on the run. He's shown he can finish plays.

"You need to get to the point where you read swings, anticipate certain things in certain counts. That takes some time. I'm looking forward to getting to see him go out there on a consistent basis."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for 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.