DENVER -- A forgotten positive in the Rockies' difficult season is switch-hitting utility man Jonathan Herrera's strong season -- a .289 batting average in 77 games of sporadically placed playing time.
Herrera, 28, is the type of player whose impact is lost on a team that's out of the pennant race. He plays second base, shortstop and third base, can move to the outfield, and his strength offensively is handling the bat and moving runners. His playing time dwindled when it became clear the Rockies weren't in the playoff race, since the priority became seeing callups.
Yet, he has managed to shine. Herrera had just 60 plate appearances from Aug. 1 to Saturday, and managed to hit .358 and compile a .407 on-base percentage.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss said he made it a point to let Herrera know how much he is appreciated.
"He's a valuable part of our club, and I've had a couple conversations with Johnny here lately, just to communicate that to him because, at times, I think I have probably overlooked him and maybe he warranted a little bit more playing time than he got," Weiss said. "Sometimes it's a bit of a curse, being so good at what he does. I told him Mike Gallego [a former Rockies coach, now a coach with the Athletics] was like that. I played with Gallego a long time. He was so good at being the utility guy that people saw him that way and it sometimes made it tougher to get an everyday job.
"But Johnny's one of those guys that has gotten so good at being that utility guy that can give you plus defense at any infield position that it's a very valuable piece, especially on a National League club."
The offense, which includes a .332 on-base percentage, is a plus.
"He's got a simple approach," Weiss said. "The fact he's hitting for a high average is really impressive. Typically, those role players, you don't put a lot of stock in their numbers if they're not good, because you know how difficult the job is and their value was more in their versatility and the needs they could fill on the ballclub. But Johnny's gone above and beyond."
Tulo showing plenty of pop at the plate
DENVER -- For the 23 straight homerless games that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki experienced before hitting one Thursday -- and another Friday -- the scrutiny was in full.
Tulowitzki actually hit .307 in 79 at-bats during the drought, but had just five doubles. So when balls didn't fly the way they often do off Tulowitzki's bat, the natural reaction was to stare at him on his way to the dugout. Was he limping? Was there any grasping of his midsection that let on that he was hurting, since he missed 25 games in June and July with broken ribs on the right side?
Still, Tulowitzki, who sat Saturday night just as a day off, has a healthy 24 homers this year, second on the club to Carlos Gonzalez's 26. He has had at least 24 homers in every full year but 2008 and last season, when he missed bigger chunks of time to injury.
"I feel good; it's just baseball," said Tulowitzki, who entered his start against the D-backs on Sunday with a .315 batting average and 80 RBIs. "You look around the league at some power guys and they go through stretches, whether it be 50, 100 or 150 at-bats where their power doesn't show. It just comes in bunches at times. Over the course of my career, I've hit homers in bunches and gone homerless in bunches, too.
"You'd love to be more consistent, but it's just how power plays out."
De La Rosa weighing options with injured thumb
DENVER -- If not for a nagging left thumb injury, Jorge De La Rosa would likely be posting some of the best numbers in the National League.
De La Rosa has quashed the idea that pitchers can't thrive in the Mile High air of Coors Field, posting a 2.76 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 14 home starts. A bruised thumb on his pitching hand has often shortened his outings since mid-June and kept him from making his last two starts.
After having Tommy John surgery in 2011, this was his first full season back. That only adds to the disappointment of missing the end of the season, but De La Rosa hasn't abandoned all hope that he will get healthy enough to make one last start.
"It's very frustrating," De La Rosa said. "You want to finish the season strong and I couldn't pitch the last two games. But we'll try to play catch and see if I can pitch another game."
De La Rosa has a history of hand issue and believes they are a result of gripping the ball too tightly -- especially when throwing his fastball. MRIs showed no damage to the tendons, and according to De La Rosa, doctors say healing will only come with about three weeks of rest. Pitching every day never allowed that to happen.
Manager Walt Weiss said Saturday night that De La Rosa tried to play catch before that game and the thumb acted up. Time is running short, but Weiss still hasn't decided if he will give one of the best arms on his staff a chance at win No. 17, which would be a new career-high.
"He was just playing catch, and his thumb has flared up pretty good," Weiss said. "So he's another one we're getting to the point where you wonder if he's going to be out there again, but we're still shooting for that. He's still getting his treatment, still going to try to throw and there's still a chance he could make a start.
"But we got to make a smart decision on that."
Remainder of injured Fowler's season unclear
DENVER -- Dexter Fowler simply hasn't been the same player since he took a fastball off his right hand in a June 13 loss to the Nationals.
In 63 games before that first injury, which eventually sent him to the disabled list, Fowler was hitting .302 with a .399 on-base percentage -- probably the most important number for a leadoff hitter. The initial injury to his right index finger turned into a wrist issue, and he's hitting just .211 with a .330 OBP since June 14.
The Rockies were 33-30 with a fully healthy Fowler atop the lineup, but have sunk to 25-31 in the games he's played since. And that's more than pure coincidence.
"Dexter was a guy at the top of the lineup that really seemed to make our offense go when we were going well," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
Now the Rockies center fielder is battling a left knee he twisted in an Aug. 26 game against the Giants when he tried to steal second. He's started just three games since and the knee acted up again in a fifth-inning pinch-hit appearance in Saturday's 7-2 loss to the D-backs.
That only led to further speculation that Weiss will shut down Fowler for the remainder of the year.
"The fact that he re-aggravated that injury, I think it's not out of the question [to shut him down]," Weiss said. "It's also not out of the question that he could make an appearance again, but we're coming to the end here, so it's possible that he may not."
• After missing three games with a sprained left wrist, right fielder Michael Cuddyer returned to the Rockies' lineup for Sunday's game. His .331 batting average is one point behind Braves third baseman Chris Johnson for the league lead.
• The Rockies' situation with their coaching staff is much the same as it is with manager Walt Weiss. The club wants Weiss back and Weiss wants to return, but negotiations won't begin until after the season. Weiss likes his coaching staff, but official evaluations and invitations to return will take place after the season, most likely in conjunction with the manager's negotiations.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.