Ask any casual baseball fan the first thing that comes to mind when they think of a Yankees-Rockies series. They’d probably point to the guys that wear number two on both teams and play shortstop. We knew Derek Jeter wouldn’t be in uniform at Coors Field this season, but not seeing Troy Tulowitzki out there in two of the three games of the series? You got me.
The Rockies have opened eyes across baseball up to this point, a half game back of the Giants in the division going into the finale against the pinstripes. The bullies in the lineup are doing their part and the bullpen has been nearly lights out behind a surprisingly decent rotation.
But here’s what worries me.
The season isn’t even six weeks old and Tulo has already missed five games.
Sure, some of those were due to a nutty April schedule that featured two doubleheaders within a week. The others were meant to give the Rox shortstop a day to rest some minor injuries.
This week, Tulo has been hampered with inflammation near his groin, an area that forced him out of most of 2012. An MRI Sunday showed no damage aside from the soreness, but manager Walt Weiss has played it cautious since. Tulo has missed the last two games and three in the past week due to the discomfort.
I get it. Weiss would rather give his cleanup hitter a maintenance day here and there to prevent him being out for weeks at a time later in the season. Don’t call Tulo a baby. Call Weiss cautious. Right now, it’s smart managing.
Then there’s the other side of the argument.
Fans shell out hard-earned cash on tickets, parking and overpriced food. They expect to see the big names in the lineup. I bet if you asked a sample of the 30,000 fans that go to Coors Field during the season; a sizable chunk would say they bought tickets to see Tulowitzki alone.
You can’t refute that reason. He’s hitting a ridiculous .348 with seven home runs and 28 runs batted in while playing his typical Gold Glove defense. And his WAR (wins above replacement) has rivaled that of Buster Posey, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
I don’t need to convince you that the Rox are an immensely better team with Tulowitzki in the lineup. When he’s not, pitchers can pitch around Carlos Gonzalez and take their chances with the lesser feared Michael Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario.
There’s still plenty of baseball to be played before we can legitimately discuss who can be labeled contenders in September. I like the Rockies’ chances if they can play .500 baseball or better from now until July.
If that’s the case, Weiss will have to rethink his cautionary managing with Tulo.
I have no problem with Tulo getting an off-day if a minor injury flares up. But the Rox need their shortstop to play around 140 games to have a shot at a playoff spot. That means that after the All-Star break, Tulo has to be in there almost every day.
Fans will be thrilled if this team stays competitive all season and wins more games than they lose. But let’s say they finish less than three games or so out of a postseason berth.
There will be grumbling that Tulo should have been playing more in April and May.