Josh Rutledge’s name was known by few in attendance when he made his major league debut on July 9th. Less than a month later, Rutledge is a household name.
The fill-in for Troy Tulowitzki has performed admirably since his call up, posting a .381 average and a .638 slugging average. He’s hit safely in 13 of 16 contests, including 12 of his last 13. Remarkably, nine of those games have been multi-hit performances. Defensively, the 23-year-old has been solid, to say the least. If any questions have been raised regarding Rutledge’s performance, it’s why he hadn’t been called up sooner.
The surprising dominance by the former third-round selection allowed the Rockies to give away Marco Scutaro for next to nothing last week, an act that was generally not well-received by Rox fans. But the move all but guarantees a longtime starting spot for Rutledge, who will likely shift to second base once Tulowitzki makes his long-anticipated return.
Rutledge’s prominence in the field, combined with a repeat Gold Glove-winner in Tulowitzki, can’t help fans from reminiscing of the Rocktober glory days. The middle infield tandem of Tulo and Kaz Matsui was the pillar of a tremendously rigid Colorado defense. Ever since Matsui left the team, the D has been a Corvette running off of a four-cylinder engine.
Finally unearthing a reliable infielder can make significant strides towards next season’s success. The numerous position battles placed the team in a state of flux and uncertainty. Entering 2013 with fewer wide-open position battles will create a chemistry the Rox have lacked all year.
Despite the hot start, Rutledge will continue to play for his job on a week to week basis. He has not experienced any gut-check type slumps at this point in his early major league career, and hit only slightly above .300 while at Double-A Tulsa. With the loss of Scutaro, fellow rookie DJ LeMahieu will receive a golden opportunity to prove his worth at second base, just feet away from Rutledge.
For the time being, Rutledge has a favorable edge over LeMahieu, but a strong showing from the former LSU Tiger may at least keep him in the conversation of receiving more playing time. But barring a complete fallout from Colorado’s newfound stud from Alabama, Rutledge's slot in the starting lineup is his to lose.
Rox Stand Pat on Deadline Day
While some NL West foes loaded up for a World Series run on Tuesday, all was quiet on the front range of the Rocky Mountains. However, that didn’t mean Dan O’Dowd was short on options. Relievers Rafael Betancourt and Matt Reynolds generated great interest and were targeted by several teams around the league. Contenders like the Angels, Yankees, and Rangers made inquiries, but a deal was never made.
O’Dowd’s decision to keep his bullpen intact is probably the correct move, especially considering the relievers have bailed out the starters on a nightly basis. Rafael Betancourt has been solid in the closers role, locking down 17 of 21 games. Matt Reynolds is proving to be a go-to guy out of the pen, and is already one of Colorado’s top options in just his second season. Despite the attention garnered by some of Colorado’s arms, another name was tossed around without abandon by the Rox fanbase.
Michael Cuddyer’s trade value was a popular subject on the airwaves and message boards, but O’Dowd expressed no desire to deal his big offseason signing. “Cuddy” hasn’t exactly delivered the desired results in hitter-friendly Coors Field. He’s hitting just .260, but the Rox love his attitude and view him as an invaluable piece of the clubhouse.
The power hitter is also expected to take over Todd Helton’s iconic position once Colorado’s most famous ballplayer decides to call it a career. Cuddyer is still around, which is a subtle hint that Helton’s final game is just a couple months away.
Or perhaps Cuddyer remained a Rockie because Dan O’Dowd did not want to completely pull the plug on his newest arrivals. Jeremy Guthrie deserves to be forgotten and the Marco Scutaro was traded, as previously mentioned. Cuddyer could still be in the equation just as an attempt by O’Dowd to prevent the fans’ from roasting his free-agency moves, since his history in drafting failures is already well documented.