PITTSBURGH -- All isn't perfect with the chronically sprained right middle finger of Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, but he was back in the lineup Sunday against the Pirates, hoping new hand positioning on the bat will help.
Gonzalez usually holds the bat with his pinky beneath the knob. Now he'll have all of his fingers on the bat handle in hopes of offering stronger support. To compensate for the loss of length on the hitting surface, Gonzalez has ordered 35-inch bats -- an inch longer than usual -- though they haven't arrived yet. But even without the new bats and with the old pain, Gonzalez felt he needed to return as the Rockies attempt to win a series.
"It's still real sore," Gonzalez said. "But as players, we prepare the entire winter to play the whole season. I know I might not be 100 percent, but I can't stand sitting in the clubhouse or in the dugout when my team is playing. I want to be out there."
Gonzalez had a recurrence of the injury Wednesday against the Braves. It was the third flare-up in July. He lost the National League lead in home runs during the week -- the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez hit his 27th to pass him, and the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt hit his 26th to catch him.
"It's nice to lead the league in any category," Gonzalez said. "But I'm not here just to win the home run championship. I will have to shorten up my swing, hit the other way and do things to help the team. And I'm sure if the pitcher makes a mistake, I might not be able to hit it 450 feet, but that doesn't mean I can't hit it far enough."
The left-handed hitting Gonzalez tends to hurt the finger when he chases outside against a left-handed pitcher, because he is extending the bat and putting pressure on his bottom hand. Manager Walt Weiss will act accordingly, by looking to spell Gonzalez against left-handers. The good news for Gonzalez is the Rockies will face three right-handed starters in a road series against the Mets starting Tuesday.
Gonzalez entered Sunday leading the NL in slugging at .594, extra-base hits with 55 and total bases with 230. His 11 assists also led Major League outfielders.
Despite numbers, Rox take it slow with prospect Parker
PITTSBURGH -- Kyle Parker, the Rockies' first-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, hit his 20th home run at Double-A Tulsa on Saturday, and it's hard not to dream.
Selected as an outfielder, the right-handed-hitting Parker has spent time learning first base this season. Given that any projection of the Rockies' lineup for next year screams for a power-hitting right-handed hitter who can play right field or first base, it's not hard to start projecting. But that's looking too far ahead, as far as Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations, is concerned.
Geivett said Sunday it's too soon to even explore the idea of giving the 23-year-old Parker a taste of the Majors this year. There's a whole list of free agents and trade possibilities to explore this offseason. All the Rockies are prepared to do is appreciate the development their 10th-ranked prospect and former Clemson quarterback has made this season.
"That's part of the thing, especially coming to the big league level -- you've got to make the club first, before you can worry about playing time," Geivett said. "We want him to have that ability of playing the outfield or playing first base, with the big thing being a right-handed hitter with power -- that's a difficult thing to find. We're happy with his progress. We'll see how it goes from there, but he's someone we're keeping a very close eye on."
In addition to the home runs, Parker entered Sunday batting .278 with 55 RBIs and a .491 slugging percentage. He has a .333 on-base percentage as he continues to work at trimming strikeouts -- 133 in 517 plate appearances at Class A Asheville in 2011, 88 in 463 plate appearances at Class A Advanced Modesto last year, and 69 in 406 plate appearances so far this year.
Parker made his first appearance in big league camp this year, but was a non-factor (1-for-13 with four RBIs, two strikeouts and four walks). The scouting reports from Tulsa indicate that since the Minor League season began, Parker has been working on a thought process that should make him more competitive against higher-level pitching.
"The biggest thing that I like is he's making adjustments to more advanced pitching," Geivett said. "He's facing guys that will throw off-speed pitches behind in the count. He's handling more experienced guys. People tell me he's right on track.
"But the pressure is not on him. You learn that through the years. You can try to have whatever timetable you want for a player, but the player will show when he's ready."
Rosario set to join contingent at DR facility ceremony
PITTSBURGH -- Catcher Wilin Rosario felt it was worth giving up a day off to see how much better a new group of Rockies prospects in the Dominican Republic has it than he did.
"It's something great that the Rockies opened the facility for those young players that grew up in the Dominican, in Venezuela and all those tropical cities and countries," Rosario said. "I feel great about the Rockies for giving us more comfortable facilities. It's something amazing."
Rosario will be part of a group of 15 from the Rockies' organization to take a trip to the Rockies' new complex outside of Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, for opening ceremonies on Monday. The complex actually opened earlier this season, but Monday will be the formal event.
Rosario will be joined by teammates Jhoulys Chacin, Jonathan Herrera and Juan Nicasio, as well as club owner Dick Monfort, chief baseball executive Dan O'Dowd and senior vice president of Major League operations Bill Geivett, among others.
The new complex covers 17 acres, and has 2 1/2 practice fields, dorm rooms of four bunks to a room that can accommodate as many as 80 players, a covered five-lane batting cage, classrooms for academic and life-skills training, a cafeteria and living quarters for the cooks. Eventually, the team wants to provide guest housing for families of prospects.
When Rosario signed with the Rockies in February 2006 at age 17, he was at the old complex -- a shared facility in Boca Chica -- that had a large room full of bunks and a facility that wasn't state of the art. But Rosario provided perspective: The old place was a step up from playing with wonderful players with no facilities in Bonao, Dominican Republic.
"The little field by your home where you practice, it isn't even close," Rosario said. "It's clean. The grass is cut. The field is lined. You see the bases -- you can take them out of the ground. At our field, you put a little bit of paper, a towel, something that you can hit, that was the base.
"And when you were there, you got three meals, for sure. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. You'd say, 'That's the life.'
"Now, from what I hear, it looks like a nice hotel, with the beach and everything."
Young Rockies bench lacks consistent pinch-hitter
DENVER -- One feature of the Rockies' high-scoring history has been the presence of productive veteran pinch-hitters. Lenny Harris, Greg Colbrunn, Greg Norton, Mark Sweeney and Jason Giambi all have been big late-innings contributors.
This year's roster has a young bench and lacks that type of hitter.
Manager Walt Weiss can see the day when the Rockies return to using such a player. Because the Rockies sometimes go with 12 pitchers and sometimes go with 13, that player would be a fixture, and the rest of the bench would have to be versatile.
"I do know it's a tough job for a young player, no doubt about it," Weiss said. "It's a tough job for anybody. I think it helps having some guy with some mileage that can deal with that type of an at-bat. We've had a lot of young guys that have been trying to do it this year.
"It's a piece that adds to your club. I don't think you need to make it a focal point of your club, but it's one of those pieces that can help you win a championship. When you had Giambi here, there's a presence that the other manager has to pay attention to when he's figuring out his bullpen. He's got some history with everybody he goes out there against, so maybe it's a little easier to execute a plan."
Helton's back acts up after pinch-hit appearance
PITTSBURGH -- Rockies veteran first baseman Todd Helton's usually balky back felt so good that he started eight straight games before not being in the lineup Saturday night. But when he appeared as a pinch-hitter in that loss, the pain returned.
Helton admitted to not feeling good while going 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout during Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Pirates. But he does have a day off Monday and will check back in with manager Walt Weiss before Tuesday night's game against the Mets at Citi Field.
"It didn't feel too good today," Helton said after Sunday's game. "The pinch-hit [Saturday] probably screwed me up a little bit."
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.