DENVER -- Carlos Gonzalez returned to the third spot in the Rockies' lineup Saturday night against the Mets after missing a game with a broken blood vessel in his left index finger, but the more intriguing part of the batting order is finding Nolan Arenado.
Arenado, who took a 22-game hit streak into Saturday night, has batted mostly in the No. 2 spot since Michael Cuddyer injured his left hamstring April 17. But Arenado isn't exactly anchored there. He hit fifth Saturday, behind shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, with first baseman Justin Morneau getting a night off from the starting lineup.
"Usually, it's determined by the rest of the lineup," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We thought Nolan was a good guy to protect Tulo, so it has more to do with what's around him than him. He's hit sixth, seventh."
Arenado entered the game with a .309 batting average. There is a huge performance range depending on his spot in the order, but that's partly because the sample sizes are small. He's hit .276 with two home runs in the No. 2 spot, with hits in all seven games. He entered Saturday 4-for-8 with a double in two games in the fifth spot, and is hitting .362 in 12 games batting sixth and .231 in 10 games hitting seventh.
All Weiss sees is an effective hitter.
"I think there's more made about it than there actually is," Weiss said. "I don't think it's that big a deal. The situation on the scoreboard will tell you how to take the at-bat most of the time. Unless you're maybe leading off or hitting third or fourth, I don't think it makes much of a difference."
Rosario out with illness; McKenry called up
DENVER -- Catcher Wilin Rosario is the next Rockies player to end up in the club's sick bay.
A day after the Rockies placed infielder Josh Rutledge on the 15-day disabled list for a viral infection, Rosario was sick and away from Coors Field for Saturday's game against the Mets.
Needing a second catcher, the Rockies called up Michael McKenry from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Rosario remained on the active roster, with the Rockies optioning right-handed reliever Chad Bettis
But depending on the severity of his illness, Rosario could be a candidate to be placed on the DL on Sunday to make room for right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who is expected to make his season debut. Chacin strained his right shoulder at the start of Spring Training.
Jordan Pacheco (.242 average, three RBIs) started at catcher Saturday night.
The season has been difficult health-wise for Rosario (.239, three homers, 15 RBIs). He has sat out in spots twice because of left wrist and hand injuries.
New approach boosts results in two-strike counts
DENVER -- Simply put, the Rockies are tougher outs this season than last. Manager Walt Weiss and new hitting coach Blake Doyle wanted it that way.
Last season, Weiss felt, the Rockies had too many at-bats during which they chased outside pitches. He and then-hitting coach Dante Bichette preached aggressiveness, but there were at-bats when the hitter was more responsible for the out than the pitcher.
Some of that has to do with the hitters. For example, when hot, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki likes outside pitches and can drive them for home runs.
Some of it was youth, also. But the Rockies are doing better on the outer half this year.
One place that shows statistically is in two-strike hitting, when pitchers often work outside on put-away pitches. After a count reached two strikes last season, the Rockies had a .181 batting average, a .243 on-base percentage and a .274 slugging percentage. This year, the numbers are .222/.280/.349.
Not that this year's numbers sound eye-popping, but consider this: Across the Major Leagues this season, teams are batting .175/.247/.264 in those situations.
"We've gotten a lot better in a few areas when you compare to last year," Weiss said. "Our two-strike approach is considerably better. I think that's been a big factor. Driving in runners from third with less than two outs, and our situational stuff has been a lot better. It's tied to our approach.
"I felt last year we got exposed on the outer half of the plate. Opposing pitchers took advantage of us out there. We had a heightened sense of awareness coming into the season covering away."