Notes: Looking forward to Fenway
Rockies benefit from recent experience at quirky park
DENVER -- Rockies rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hasn't been seen in a once ever-present T-shirt as much lately. When a team wins 21 of 22 and is undefeated in seven postseason games, what's under the uniform matters less.
Because of frequent washings and wearings, you pretty much had to have seen it a few months ago to know its original color.
"It's still got some green in it," Tulowitzki said. A visitor who hadn't seen it had to ask what was printed on the front, which is the T-shirt's city of origin.
But on Monday, Tulowitzki tugged it from his locker and smiled. The T-shirt is making an unexpected trip back to Boston. The Rockies meet the Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday at 6 p.m. MT on FOX.
After days of waiting for the American League Championship Series to reach its seven-game conclusion, the Rockies, with three days left on a record eight-day layoff after winning the National League Championship Series, worked out Monday afternoon at Coors Field before heading east.
The Rockies are not only happy to be going, but they don't have to dread the unknown after winning two of three at Fenway Park in June and having given right-handed ace Josh Beckett -- who will start Game 1 against Rockies lefty Jeff Francis -- his worst defeat of the season.
Throughout the last trip, younger Rockies who had never played at Fenway spent their non-playing time touring the park and the historic city, yet concentrated when it mattered. There should be no danger of a team looking at the World Series as a field trip, but the awe is out of the way.
"I know there is a comfort zone going in because there's some familiarity," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We were able to play three games. We've seen their club. They've seen us. There's nothing that's going to catch us off-guard.
"We know the clubhouse, the surroundings, the ballpark, the nuances of the outfield, things like that. That shouldn't hurt by any means."
Francis, who threw five shutout innings in the Rockies' 7-1 victory over Beckett and the Red Sox on June 14, said he will not be shocked by Fenway's atmosphere.
"It'll be electric, no question," Francis said. "Those fans are some of the best in baseball and some of the most energetic in all of sports, so we know what we're getting into.
"To be a big part of this team, it's an honor. The fact all these guys want me out there in Game 1 means a lot."
Veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins said, "It doesn't have the same feeling of the modern-day ballpark, but if you're into tradition and the old things, it's a great ballpark. I like it, personally."
For a visiting team, the respect for the tradition of Fenway has to take a backseat to an awareness of the park's quirks. Tulowitzki, who has demonstrated the ability to learn quickly while putting himself in position for the NL Rookie of the Year Award and to at least merit consideration to become the first rookie shortstop in either league to win a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, is a quick learner.
He saw a bad hop eat up Indians shortstop Jhonny Perralta during Sunday night's 11-2 Indians victory, and knew from experience what's possible.
"It's old school, I'll tell you that," said Tulowitzki, 23. "It isn't probably the best in the league, I'll tell you that. There are some bad hops, as you saw on Peralta. It's less than pretty. You have to make sure you get in front of stuff. It can be interesting."
Left fielder Matt Holliday will have to deal with one of Fenway's most famous quirks, the Green Monster, 37 feet high and seemingly that close to home plate. But he's not in awe of it.
"I haven't really thought about it," Holliday said. "We'll have [Tuesday] to practice there, and I'll just take some balls. Anything that's hit hard or decent is going to hit the wall. So I'll work on playing it off the wall and trying to keep guys to singles when they do hit the ball off the wall."
Big decision close: The Rockies have not announced whether they would insert right-hander Aaron Cook into the starting rotation for the first time in the postseason. Cook hasn't pitched since Aug. 10 because of an oblique strain, but during the playoffs he has thrown on a regular schedule and said he feels healthy.
Hurdle didn't want to give away the Rockies' decision Monday during his media session, saying it's a sensitive issue and he needs to talk to all involved.
Francis will start Game 1 and right-handed late-season callup Ubaldo Jimenez will start Game 2. The Rockies have not announced anything else, but it is expected that righty Josh Fogg, who beat Arizona in Game 3 of the NLCS in his first postseason start, is expected to receive one of the other two positions.
One possibility would be for Cook to replace left-handed rookie Franklin Morales in the rotation, with Morales moving to the bullpen in long relief. Morales, who has made two postseason starts but has thrown just seven innings, would replace the usual long reliever, right-hander Taylor Buchholz, who has not thrown in the playoffs.
Confirmation: ACTA Sports announced that baseball historian, analyst and author Bill James has come up with a "Young Talent Inventory" for "The Bill James Handbook 2008," to be published on Nov. 1.
According to the company's press release, James lists Tulowitzki, Holliday, Francis and closer Manny Corpas as "Grade A" young players, and left fielder Brad Hawpe, third baseman Garrett Atkins and center fielder Willy Taveras also receive high mention.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.