WASHINGTON -- Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt was so excited to face live hitters -- for the first time since May 31 -- that he worked uncharacteristically quickly.
Betancourt, on the 15-day disabled list with a right groin strain, threw 30 pitches before Friday's game against the Nationals. Tyler Colvin, one of the hitters to face him, said the stuff looked good, even at a pace he had never seen from Betancourt, who is known for being deliberate between pitches.
"It was good, his fastball had something on it, the changeup was good and he didn't take much time in between, and he looked like he was really letting it go at the end, too," Colvin said. "I didn't think about it until we took a break after 20 pitches, then he went back after it. But he's professional and knows what he's doing. When he's back in games, he'll take his time."
Betancourt will face hitters again when the team goes to Boston and hopes to be activated shortly after the team returns home Thursday. He would rather not go on a Minor League rehab assignment.
The fact Betancourt could throw offspeed pitches without worrying excited him.
"With the breaking ball and the changeup, you have to stay back a little bit longer than the fastball," Betancourt said. "I was able to throw every pitch today, and I didn't feel anything."
The bullpen's depth has been tested with the injuries to Betancourt and right-hander Edgmer Escalona (who has thrown a bullpen session and will face hitters when the team is in Boston as he rehabs right elbow inflammation). But despite starting their current road trip 0-4, the Rockies entered Friday night just three games behind the National League West-leading D-backs and figure to still be within striking distance when the pitchers return. The offense also will be missing arguably baseball's best shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, for the next four to five weeks with a fractured rib.
Fowler in pain, but returns to starting lineup
WASHINGTON -- Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler's mood was better Friday than Thursday, even if nothing else was.
Before Thursday night's game against the Nationals, Fowler feared that the bone bruise on his right ring finger, an injury he suffered the previous Thursday, was actually a break. But an X-ray alleviated that fear, and Fowler was back in the starting lineup Friday, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk in the Rockies' 2-1 loss.
"It feels about the same, but I'm playing," Fowler said.
Manager Walt Weiss had held Fowler to just limited pinch-running appearances the last three days, hoping the finger would heal.
"Dexter is ready to go," Weiss said. "Hand injuries are tough in this game because it's hard to swing the bat. I just wanted to make sure he was right. Our outfielders have been banged up."
Several problems stemmed from Fowler's lack of full availability.
The Rockies were using just four outfielders and Fowler was the only center fielder. Not only was there a dropoff in range when the Rockies went with Tyler Colvin, who couldn't get to Adam LaRoche's two-run triple in Thursday's 5-1 loss, but had Colvin been hurt, the Rockies would have been in a bind. Carlos Gonzalez played center at a Gold-Glove level a few years back, but when the Rockies were using him all over the outfield, he was constantly nicked up. Last year and this year, the Rockies have stuck with leaving him in left.
Weiss said the Rockies recently discussed approaching Gonzalez about playing center on a limited basis, but instead decided to go back to five outfielders. The Rockies purchased the contract of left-handed-hitting Corey Dickerson from Triple-A Colorado Springs before Friday night's game. Dickerson was leading the Pacific Coast League in hitting at .386, triples with 13 and OPS at 1.075.
The move adds Dickerson to a bench unit that also includes Colvin and Jordan Pacheco -- players Weiss must find at-bats for to keep them sharp, since their main role will be as pinch-hitters. Weiss said Dickerson has a low-maintenance swing, which could help him deal with sporadic playing time.
The Rockies designated right-handed pitcher Logan Kensing for assignment to make room for Dickerson.
Dickerson promoted to add outfield depth
WASHINGTON -- Outfielder Corey Dickerson extended his hit streak at Triple-A Colorado Springs to 23 games and had three hits Thursday night in a tight game against Tacoma. But after seven innings, he was pulled from the game -- to the smiles of his teammates.
A Triple-A team removing or not using a key player -- Dickerson leads the Pacific Coast League in batting at .386 -- when it seems he is needed often means a bigger assignment is on the horizon. The Rockies called him to the Majors, and he was in uniform for Friday night's game against the Nationals.
"I was having a really good game, and after my fourth at-bat the trainer came up to me and told me I was taken out," Dickerson said. "I didn't really know why. Everybody kind of had a clue, but I didn't really know until [Sky Sox manager] Glenallen Hill told me."
Dickerson, the Rockies' No. 15 prospect and a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, has been an offensive powerhouse in the Minors. He leads the league in average, triples (13) and OPS (1.042), and has nine home runs, 19 doubles, 38 RBIs and 56 runs scored. Dickerson hit 32 homers in 106 games at Class A Asheville in 2011, but last year had a combined 22 in 127 games at High Class A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa.
Manager Walt Weiss said Dickerson profiles as a corner outfielder. The Rockies have two of their best hitters in the corners -- left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and right fielder Michael Cuddyer -- but Weiss said he will find at-bats for Dickerson. More chances could be possible Tuesday and Wednesday, when the Rockies play the Red Sox in Interleague games at Fenway Park. There is opportunity to use one of the regulars or use Dickerson as a designated hitter.
"He's one of those guys that everybody who has spent any time around him has loved," Weiss said. "He plays the game really hard. He kind of reminds me of a young Michael Cuddyer. He's been really good this year. It's nice to see a kid like that walk into our clubhouse."
Dickerson, an eighth-round Draft pick out of Meridian (Miss.) Community College in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, said his wife and her family, plus his parents and brothers from Mississippi, were flying to Washington to see his debut game.
Dickerson was not in Thursday's starting lineup. He had appeared in 42 straight games, and hit .407 with seven homers, eight triples, 14 doubles and 18 walks in those games for Colorado Springs.
The Rockies designated right-handed reliever Logan Kensing for assignment to make room for Dickerson.
Streaky Colvin in down cycle on road trip
DENVER -- Rockies outfielder Tyler Colvin is experiencing the flip side of being a streaky hitter.
Colvin had good at-bats and hit with power immediately after being called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on June 8. But during the current road trip, he is 0-for-14 with a walk.
Some of it has been difficult pitching matchups, such as the 0-for-4 exhibition with two strikeouts against Nationals standout Jordan Zimmermann on Thursday night. To regain his groove, Colvin showed up at Nationals Park early on Friday to take live swings against rehabbing right-handed closer Rafael Betancourt.
With Betancourt close to recovered from his right groin injury, Colvin was able to face a well-spotted fastball and a nasty slider.
"It's always good to see live stuff like that," said Colvin, whose average has dropped to .189 with three home runs and nine RBIs through 11 games. "It helps to go out there and get timing off a pitcher who is using a leg kick, instead of just taking batting practice.
"I've faced some tough guys and haven't done too well. When you face tough guys, you can't get behind on them."
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.