ST. LOUIS -- Rafael Betancourt has dealt with some struggles recently that can be blamed on sporadic opportunity, but overall he has improved.Betancourt, 36, entered the season as the closer, though there was concern about his performances before the All-Star break each of the last two years after the Rockies acquired him from the Indians in 2009. In 2010 he had a 5.06 ERA and a .293 batting average against before the break; last year those numbers were 4.84 and .281. This year, Betancourt has converted 13 of 17 save chances, with three of the blown saves coming in his last six attempts. He also has held opponents to a .223 batting average and has a 3.03 ERA. But the Rockies have struggled mightily since early June, which means he couldn't count on consistent chances. Betancourt, the setup man to Huston Street (now a Padres All-Star) before this season, admitted that in the past he went through low-confidence periods. He has been more even-keeled this season. "That's something you learn," Betancourt said. "The last couple of years, and even when I was with the Indians, I had those periods where I lost confidence. This year, after every inning I pitch, I try not to think about what happened in bad games. I just try to come back the next day, and if I have the opportunity to pitch, I'll be ready. It's something I'm doing different this year." Betancourt realizes that he can't control whether he has save chances, so he puts his energy toward supporting his fellow pitchers, and he is a valuable source of information in the bullpen during games. "I know we've had some injuries [in the starting rotation], and it's been tough," Betancourt said. "We've lost too many games. We just need to keep playing. The wins are going to come. "For me, every outing has to be focused. It doesn't matter if it's a save opportunity or not. The guys are trying real hard. It's not how any save situations I have, it's how many wins we get. If it's a save situation, that's fine. If not and I can come in and we win the game, that's fine, too."
Tracy sees opportunities for Rockies to grow
ST. LOUIS -- The Rockies have lost half of 100 games at the season's halfway point, but that doesn't mean manager Jim Tracy has given up hope that the team will make major strides between now and season's end.All around the diamond are signs of a bright future, even though that potential can be realized only if the starting pitching improves. Still, Tracy can see the opportunities for growth. "No. 1, the continued progress of [rookie catcher] Wilin Rosario factors in," Tracy said. "In the case of Dexter Fowler in center field, can he offensively sustain what he's done up to this point? Tyler Colvin, I must continue to find opportunities for him to play and increase the number of at-bats, and see how it plays out from first half to second half. "The pitching part ... [Christian] Friedrich and his continued development, Drew Pomeranz and the type of second half he will have. [Lefty reliever] Rex Brothers, does he settle in and become the completely reliable guy that you know he's capable of being? There are things we want to tighten up with [righty reliever] Adam Ottavino." Tracy also mentioned a couple of first-half injuries that have hurt the club. "There are so many interesting concepts and pieces here. Can we get [shortstop] Troy Tulowitzki in there? How does it look when we have Tulo in there, if Colvin continues and Fowler continues, along with [left fielder] Carlos Gonzalez? Can we get Jhoulys Chacin back before the season is over, and what does it look like when we get to that point? "If we don't solely focus on the win-loss record, there are a lot of things that have taken place that are good, that you want to think you can hold onto moving forward. But out there on that [mound], that's got to get squared away."
Fluid drained from Nicasio's knee
ST. LOUIS -- Right-hander Juan Nicasio had fluid drained from his injured left knee on Thursday, head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said.Nicasio (2-3, 5.52 ERA in 11 starts) was injured during a June 2 start against the Dodgers while making a twisting attempt at a line drive. He was scheduled to face hitters on Thursday, but the knee swelled on Wednesday, one day after a rigorous agility session. Dugger said that Nicasio's knee will be evaluated after the All-Star break. He has had fluid drained twice since sustaining the injury.
First baseman Todd Helton, who has been playing through pain in his right hip, was not in the starting lineup on Thursday against the Cardinals. With Michael Cuddyer playing first base, there was another opportunity to start the productive Tyler Colvin (.302, 10 homers, 35 RBIs) in right field. Catcher Ramon Hernandez (strained left hand) began his rehab assignment at Triple-A Colorado Springs on Wednesday night by catching five innings and going 1-for-3 and being hit by a pitch. He was scheduled to play again on Thursday. Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (0-3, 7.30 ERA in five starts), who hasn't appeared in a game since May 1 because of a nerve issue in the right side of his chest, threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Thursday. No word on what the next step will be.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.