Updated: February 25, 2013 at 12:00 am
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When a franchise invests nearly $160 million in an athlete — and he’s coming off a major injury — the every-day play becomes the everybody-is-watching play.
Everybody at Salt River Fields was watching Troy Tulowitzki on Monday.
And the big-money shortstop made a pair of every-day plays that promised a healthy return.
On his first defensive chance of the spring, Tulo caught a sky-high pop-up. Soon after, he roamed to his left and scooped up a tough grounder and fired to first for the out.
Both were encouraging signs for the Rockies (2-1) and Tulowitzki, who missed the final 113 games last season after undergoing groin surgery. His spring returns: So far, so good.
“I’m trying to make it as much (about) instinct as possible, not thinking before I move,” Tulowitzki said afterward in the Rockies clubhouse.
His swing did not appear to have suffered from the layoff. In the third inning, Tulo smacked a two-run single. Colorado beat Texas 9-1 in a Cactus League game.
“You’re always trying to work on things. So hitting in the middle of the lineup, you want to be good at driving in those runs,” said Tulowitzki, who was limited to 47 games last season. “So today was a good example of (scoring) two-out RBI. We’ve preached that a lot, so being successful (with it) is nice.”
Without Tulowitzki beefing up the lineup for more than 70 percent of the season, the Rockies still led the National League with a .274 batting average. Yes, Coors Field helps.
But with Tulo mended and healthier pieces around him, producing runs doesn’t figure to be a concern.
"The guy can do anything he wants on a baseball field. And he has the desire to be a special player," hitting coach Dante Bichette said of Tulowitzki.
When Chris Volstad cruises through the Rockies clubhouse, it’s like you’ve been transported to the Nuggets locker room at Pepsi Center.
Volstad is 6-foot-8, a mountain of a righthander. Not a power forward, though he could double as one. The starter Monday, Volstad allowed two hits and no runs in two innings.
“It was good to start like that,” Volstad said.
Volstad is attempting to crack the Rockies starting five. He previously pitched for the Cubs and Rangers. His focus with the Rockies: Ground balls.
Manager Walt Weiss believes in open competition for positions in the starting rotation. To get a contribution from someone like Volstad, who strikes an imposing figure and was gifted enough to be selected in the first round, would be an unexpected bonus.
“You see the results when you are working down (in the strike zone). You see what can happen,” Volstad said. “Like today — one ground ball might go through the hole, then the next one you get two outs with one pitch. I think, for me personally, it just simplifies a lot of things.”
Todd Helton took batting practice prior to Monday’s game but did not appear in the lineup. It remains uncertain when the veteran will return to the field.
Entering his 17th season, the Rockies aren’t in any hurry to rush him back. He needs another full spring itinerary like the Arizona desert needs more sunshine.
Helton underwent hip surgery in August and missed the remainder of the season.
“It’s a work in progress,” Helton said of his health.