DENVER -- During Spring Training, 37-year-old Rockies outfielder Jay Payton wasn't sure he was still going to be playing at this time of the year.

Payton missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and signed with the Rockies, realizing he was going to have to at least start this season at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He said at the time he couldn't envision spending the whole year there.

That's pretty much what happened. But he ended up with what he wanted, a chance to help with a playoff run. In his first 13 games since he was called up when rosters expanded in early September, Payton hit .450 with three doubles and a triple. The triple occurred in Saturday night's 10-9 victory over the Giants.

"The fire has always been there," said Payton, who started Sunday's finale of the three-game series against the Giants. "I felt I was playing well enough at Triple-A to get a chance to come back, but sometimes those circumstances are out of your control. I got back here and so far things are going well for me."

Payton was with the Rockies in 2002 and 2003, and performed well enough to earn a big free-agent contract with the Padres in 2004. Payton would like to continue his career next year. He likes the Rockies and the idea of contending, but will have to see where he fits in the plans going into the season.

"To be able to come in this atmosphere where we're making the playoff push and be able to have some big at-bats, for me it's very gratifying," Payton said. "That's what it's all about for me in my career. It's all about having a chance to get back to the playoffs and play in the World Series again [he did it in 2000 for the Mets]. I'm not here for money or glory. I'm here because I love baseball and the opportunity to win a championship."

Two rough games not getting Rogers down

DENVER -- Rockies right-handed reliever Esmil Rogers greeted the morning with a smile. He pulled up a chair for a visitor.

Rogers, a rookie, didn't mind in the least discussing his difficult last two games, one in a key loss at Arizona and the other Saturday night when he didn't retire any of the five batters he faced to put the Rockies behind but was saved by a comeback in the team's 10-9 victory. After some encouraging bullpen work, Rogers has given up 12 runs in 3 1/3 innings over his past four appearances.

It's not that Rogers, 25, who has yet to pitch a full Major League season, is tired. His sunny attitude and hopping fastball are evidence that the problem isn't fatigue. Rogers just happens to be learning how to handle himself at the Major League level, and he's doing it during a tight playoff race.

"I lost my fastball command," Rogers said. "That's what I'm trying to get back, be in line with my mechanics, too. I'm working with that.

"It's really, really fun. When you come into games like this, I try to do the best I can. We need to make the playoffs. If I get my fastball command, everything is going to be OK."

Tracy said Rogers' zeal to pitch out of difficult situations is compounding them. Chalk it up to a lack of experience.

"He's been dynamic up to that point, but the last couple of times that he's been out, he gives up a hit early and from a youth standpoint thinks, 'I've got to throw harder,'" Tracy said. "He starts to throw harder and further mislocates, and gets into bad counts.

"Think about what happened last night. He gave up a base hit off the end of the bat to [Juan] Uribe, then there was a ball he thought might have a chance of being a double-play ball that gets underneath Jonathan Herrera's glove, and the floodgates open very quickly.

"He falls behind Cody Ross 3-0 and throws a strike. He still has to throw another strike, Cody assumes he's throwing a fastball, a fastball shows up and he hits it out of the ballpark."

Tracy said Rogers simply had "two bad games." Because he wants to preserve Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt and closer Huston Street for late-game situations with a lead, Rogers is still his best option for multiple innings in the middle of games.

Rogers said his mind is in the right place, and his fastball will follow.

"I'm going to be OK," Rogers said. "When I do come into the game, I don't think about the score. I do my job, throw strikes and try to be in the game for two or three innings. When I'm out there, I don't think about mechanics. All I think about is throwing strikes."

Rockies battling Giants, flu-like symptoms

DENVER -- As the Rockies fight for their playoff lives this weekend, they're also fighting illness.

A number of players on the team have demonstrated flu-like symptoms over the past few days, resulting in some shuffling of the starting lineup. Third baseman Ian Stewart would have started on Sunday, but he fell ill.

"He's dealing with a bout of whatever, just like Seth Smith had [Saturday] night," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "So we're not going to go in that direction."

Jonathan Herrera started at third base, in place of Melvin Mora, who left Friday's game with a fever of 102 degrees, but went 2-for-5 with two RBIs on Saturday.

Additionally, Saturday's starter Jason Hammel was battling a sinus infection throughout the week leading up to his start. Jay Payton got his second straight start on Sunday, as Smith was to get a breather.

"It's vomiting, the other stuff, that's what we've got going on. Smith left yesterday with the exact same thing," Tracy said. "There's a possibility that there wouldn't be much of him either. It took quite a bit out of him. I know they did some IV bag with Seth yesterday."