Tulo on tear since returning from DL

BY foxsports • September 12, 2010

All-Star Troy Tulowitzki is having a season that could net him some silver and gold.

The Colorado Rockies' star is on pace to become the first player to lead NL shortstops in both slugging percentage and fielding percentage since Jay Bell did it for Pittsburgh in 1993, according to STATS LLC.

Tulowitzki leads NL shortstops with a .985 fielding percentage and a .567 slugging clip. He is the leading contender for the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards given annually to the league's top fielder and hitter at each position.

And he's done all this despite missing 33 games with a broken wrist and needing some time upon his return to regain his sweet stroke and his power swing.

Over the last couple of weeks, Tulo has teamed with outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to form a potent 1-2 punch in the 3-4 spots of the Rockies' order and lead Colorado back into the playoff picture.

''He's getting healthy, that's what's going on,'' Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. ''He's the same player. But he's even healthier now than he was when he first came back from the injury.

''When players come back from an injury where they've been down for a while, they're back and you're excited about it, but that's not necessarily to say that (right away) they're going to look exactly like the guy that we've grown accustomed to prior to leaving. It's going to take a little bit of time. And we've obviously run through that gamut. And now Troy Tulowitzki is starting to show up and he's the player that all of us in here know that he is and he's capable of being.''

Before going hitless Saturday night, Tulowitzki had hit .444 (16 for 36) over his previous nine games while collecting eight homers, 17 RBIs, 15 runs and five walks.

''It seems like when I get hot, I get hot,'' Tulowitzki said.

Still, he kept his surge in perspective.

''Any time you've got a streak like this, you try to ride it out as long as you possibly can. Don't try to think about it. Just go out there and try to play your game. Let it come,'' Tulowitzki said after homering twice Friday night. ''I'm definitely seeing the ball good, slowing the game down. It's not that easy, though. At any point in time, tomorrow or the next day, you can go in a little funk. That's the game of baseball.''

Sure enough, Tulowitzki was collared with an 0-for-4 performance Saturday night when he moved up one spot to the No. 3 hole with Triple Crown candidate Gonzalez getting a breather.

Tulowitzki and Gonzalez have been on a tear that's coincided with the Rockies' latest late-season run that has Coors Field abuzz with talk of another ''Rocktober,'' the magical 21-1 run-up to the 2007 World Series.

Tulowitzki has provided protection for Gonzalez, who is getting better pitches to hit. And with Gonzalez getting on base so much, Tulowitzki likewise has seen more pitches to hit.

''He's hot right now. It's hard to get him out,'' teammate Jorge De La Rosa said of Tulowitzki. ''We know when he's going good, we're going to be going good.''

Tulowitzki leads NL shortstops in batting average, on-base percentage, at-bats per home run and at-bats per RBI. Defensively, he leads NL shortstops in double plays, fewest errors, total chances per nine innings, putouts per nine innings and range factor.

After dealing with injuries and inconsistency all summer, the Rockies are in the thick of the NL West and wild-card races thanks in large part to Tulowitzki, their cleanup hitter and clubhouse leader.

''I think we're doing something that we've done before. It's not like this is the first time we've ever done it,'' Tulowitzki said. ''We're playing well as of late. We know how to finish and we believe that any time we get hot like this we can ride out a streak as long as anybody. The whole time, I've stressed that the whole year to everybody. When we get hot we're going to get hot. I think this is the first time we've really felt like, 'Hey, this is our time to make our run.'''

Tulowitzki and the Rockies might be trying to protect a playoff spot instead of chasing one down had their star shortstop been healthy all summer. A pitch from Minnesota reliever Alex Burnett broke his left wrist on June 17 and he didn't return to the lineup until July 27.

''Add an extra 30 games and 120, 130, 140 extra trips to the plate, what do the numbers look like then?'' Tracy said. ''This guy's a real, real special player. It's an institutional player, it's a foundational player that you build an organization around, that's what he is. And I said to him yesterday, 'You really like this time of year, don't you?' He got this smirk off the side of his mouth.''

With all the buzz about his offense, Tulowitzki's stellar defense maybe is getting overlooked.

''If you hit it to him, you're out,'' Tracy said matter-of-factly. ''And we haven't even begun to talk about his throwing arm. That arm should have to be registered with the firearms administration.''

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