SAN DIEGO — Hours before Saturday’s game with the Padres, Rockies’ second baseman Josh Rutledge sat alone at the video table, studying film to prepare for the evening’s game.
The 23-year-old wasn’t alone for long, as injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki meandered across the clubhouse, asked “What’re you doin’, Rut?” and pulled up a chair to the right of the rookie.
Tulowitzki is trying to spend as much time to the right of Rutledge as he can, as many believe he and the University of Alabama product are the Colorado double play combination of the near — and distant — future. And while he has missed 94 games with that troublesome left groin issue, the 27-year-old Tulowitzki is doing everything he can to make sure the duo won’t need any time to get acclimated come 2013.
“It’s tough right now because of the fact that I’ve never gotten to play with him at this level. He doesn’t know what I’m about. I’ve worked out with him in the offseason, seen him play a lot, but he’s never gotten that full experience with me, so it’s tough to gain trust that way,” Tulowitzki said. “I think just talking to him — making him realize that he’s a huge part of this organization and is going to be for a long time, I think that’s only going to help his learning curve.”
Rutledge has played shortstop in Tulo’s absence and done so very well: he’s hitting .298 with seven homers in 54 games, 43 of which came at short. Jim Tracy has said he’s going to give Rutledge more time at second as September rolls along in anticipation of his projected role in 2013. He’s played just two games there so far this year.
“He has a good shot,” Tulowitzki said of Rutledge being his double-play partner down the line, though he did mention the great potential he sees in other young infielders like D.J. LeMahieu and Chris Nelson, as well. “I think the biggest thing at a young age is his emotions: he doesn’t let the game get the best of him. I can learn from him for that — I try to tell him, I’m an emotional player — he doesn’t do that at all. He grabs his glove, goes out there on defense, and doesn’t say a word, and I respect that about him.”
Tulowitzki also hopes he can serve as the kind of veteran sounding board for Rutledge that he, himself, valued as a young player.
“When I was young, there were some veteran guys that would talk to me and it just makes you sleep that much better at night thinking, ‘Hey, these guys went through it, too, some of these players I watched growing up, some of these guys I respect,'” Tulowitzki said. “They’re going through the same struggles you’re going through.”