DENVER -- Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt appears to have put his slow-starting ways in the past.Heading into Monday against the Dodgers, the final game of April, Betancourt had a 1.00 ERA in nine appearances, and was 6-for-6 on save opportunities. Betancourt had struggled in the first halves of the last three seasons, and in 2009 and '10 he had twin 5.40 ERAs. The good news is each of those seasons, starting with 2009 when he joined the Rockies in a trade with the Indians, he finished as one of the most productive relievers in the Majors. A good April could be a positive sign. But Betancourt, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Sunday by pitching a scoreless ninth inning and keeping the score tied in the Rockies' 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Mets, isn't much for looking for omens. "What I'm trying not to do right now is think about it," Betancourt said. "April, May or June, I don't want to think about it. I'm going day by day, doing my job when I'm pitching. If I start thinking about it, it's just too much stuff in my head. There's no reason for that. "And you want to get to the next level. Come in every day, work. It's a long season. There are going to be ups and downs, but you want to be on the same line all the time." For the most part, Betancourt has lived up to his trademark pinpoint location, with seven strikeouts to two walks and a .182 batting average against. From the 2011 All-Star break until the end of last season, Betancourt walked just one batter, and from the 2011 break through Sunday's appearance, the average against him was .107. Before taking over as closer in August, Betancourt had struggled when asked to close games. But he went 8-for-9 after Huston Street (now with the Padres) was injured last season, and has picked up with the same effectiveness. "Rafael Betancourt thrives on responsibility, and he understands the responsibility we've given him," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "If he can continue to put together a solid first half and follow it up with some of the second halves we've seen, this has a chance of being something special."
Cuddyer adjusting to Coors Field
DENVER -- Right fielder Michael Cuddyer said Monday one of the challenges of coming to the Rockies after 11 seasons with the Twins is learning Coors Field."There's a lot of ground that you have to cover, and I got the smaller part of the park," Cuddyer said. "One thing for me, even though the wall is out there and I'm used to playing with the wall behind me, the wall [in Minnesota] is closer. I could play a ball off the wall, and try to throw the batter out at second. Here, because it's so deep, that doesn't present itself all that often unless it's a line drive and a perfect bounce. "Where I would get in trouble is if there's a man on first. In Minnesota, I could play the ball off the wall and try to get the out at second, knowing the other man is not going to score from first. Here, I can't do that. It's so deep, the guy could score. It doesn't take too long to learn it. I haven't seen every bounce that can possibly happen out there, but you can't prepare for everything." Cuddyer said playing hitters has come quicker, mainly because the Twins faced National League West teams last year, so he has some fresh information. He also saw quite a bit of the division in Spring Training. On Monday, however, Cuddyer could learn by watching. He was not in the Rockies' starting lineup for just the second time in 22 games this season. Last time, however, he came off the bench for a pinch-hit, game-winning RBI single on April 20 against the Brewers. Cuddyer went 2-for-10 with an RBI and five walks in three games against the Mets. For much of the season, he was the Rockies' hottest hitter. Cuddyer will be back in the lineup for Tuesday and Wednesday, against Dodgers left-handed starters Ted Lilly and Clayton Kershaw. "His challenge here, playing at altitude, and the way he goes about his business, it's starting to waver a little bit," manager Jim Tracy said. "Rather than wait until he gets totally exhausted and really waste a day off, be proactive and do it right now." Tyler Colvin started in right field. Jonathan Herrera also started at third base instead of Chris Nelson, who doubled in Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Mets but missed the previous three games to nurse a sore left wrist. Tracy also said Herrera will start a game at second during the series with the Dodgers to rest Marco Scutaro.
Outman solid in another rehab outing
DENVER -- Rockies left-handed relief pitcher Josh Outman, on a rehab assignment for a right oblique strain, threw a perfect inning and struck out one for Triple-A Colorado Springs in its 5-2 victory at Sacramento on Monday night. He had a similarly successful outing Saturday for Class A Modesto.Outman suffered the injury late in Spring Training, after finding out he had made the team. He came down with food poisoning, but suffered the injury vomiting. Outman had stopped at Denny's for a late breakfast the morning he made the team. "I don't know what I could have done to prevent this other than not eating at Denny's," Outman told the Sacramento Bee newspaper. "I hadn't broken camp with a Major League club since 2009, and I found out four hours before I went to the hospital that I had made the big club," Outman said in the article. "The reality is that this story was going to stay hush-hush, but [Rockies manager] Jim Tracy is an honest man and he gave the details when the reporters asked him. I'm sure Denny's won't be calling me anytime soon to do an ad." Tracy said Outman would have to pitch on consecutive days, and would need "some length" since the Rockies want to be able to use him as a specialist or to pitch multiple innings.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.