DENVER -- Right-handed three-time All-Star Roy Oswalt is still three to four weeks from being considered for the Rockies' rotation, but his effort Saturday at extended spring training suggests he is progressing rapidly.
Pitching against a team of Brewers prospects, Oswalt gave up one hit -- a first-inning leadoff bunt single -- and struck out nine with no walks in five innings. It was his third start in extended spring in Arizona.
The next move for Oswalt, 35, who signed with the Rockies on May 3, is to Double-A Tulsa. He will make his first start for the Drillers on Friday at Arkansas and will be limited to 75 pitches. Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations, said Oswalt would need four or five starts before he is evaluated for a possible spot in the rotation.
Geivett has liked what he has seen on video of Oswalt's extended spring performances.
"I saw the majority of his [Saturday] outing, and he had very good command," Geivett said. "It looked like from watching the first couple starts before that one, certainly shaking the rust off was what he was going through. It was Spring Training, and he would get a little sharper the third or fourth time out."
Confident Lopez finds pitching groove with Rockies
DENVER -- Offseason acquisition Wilton Lopez didn't endear himself to his new Rockies fans when he posted a 9.00 ERA in his first nine relief appearances. But since then, he has been scored on just once in 12 games and has fulfilled the right-handed setup role the Rockies envisioned when they acquired him from the Astros.
Lopez threw 1 1/3 innings Friday night to finish off the Rockies' 10-2 victory over the Giants at Coors Field in his team-leading 21st appearance. When he was struggling, manager Walt Weiss maintained confidence in his ability to force ground balls in key situations. Now Lopez has found his confidence.
"I feel way better than before," Lopez said. "Like always, I'm using my sinker but right now I have more confidence that I can keep it down. That's why I'm making more outs."
With the Astros, Lopez developed a reputation as an extreme ground-ball pitcher, which is why the hard-hit, deep line drives of the early season were such a shock to the Rockies. Some observers wondered if Lopez was throwing a four-seam fastball instead of his two-seamer that drops.
"I was doing the same thing as before, but my control wasn't there," Lopez said. "My command wasn't good. Now all is working. I've fixed it.
"I was a little anxious when I first got here and was trying to do a little bit too much. But as soon as I started to get to know everybody and relax, I started to pitch a lot better."
• Weiss did not do his usual pregame meeting with the media Sunday morning because he attended graduation ceremonies at Regis Jesuit High School for his son, Brody. Weiss was Regis' head coach last season. Brody Weiss, a 6-foot, 180-pound shortstop, plans to play college ball at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
• When the Rockies were struggling offensively over a two-week stretch, the poor performance with runners in scoring position was a constant focus of the media and fans. Notably, however, Weiss and hitting coach Dante Bichette figured the team would hit. Bichette said the only time the subject came up was when those outside the team asked about it.
Well, the Rockies went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position Saturday, have done well in that category for the last three games and going into Sunday they were third in the National League with a .293 batting average in that situation. Just the Cardinals at .330 and the Giants at .298 were better.
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.