MILWAUKEE — Troy Tulowitzki discovered something worse than losing last season: not playing.
He missed the final four months after a left groin injury that required surgery, rendering him helpless as the Rockies stumbled to a 98-loss season.
So, Monday could have been worse.
The Rockies took a wrench to the shins, but nothing went wrong with Tulo's leg. In his first game in 305 days, the two-time all-star went 2-for-5 with two RBIs. He homered for the third time in seven opening days.
"There was a moment where I stepped back and was happy to be back out there again," Tulowitzki said. "But all that matters is contributing to the team, and helping us win."
Troy E. Renck and Patrick Saunders add analysis and notes to this blog focusing on the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies like their chances when they get impactful performances from Tulo and all-star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez was 2-for-5 with a solo home run. In the sixth inning, he made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch and threw out Rickie Weeks trying to stretch a single into a double.
"I don't know what he was thinking," Gonzalez said.
Colorado is 193-169 in games that Tulo and CarGo have played together since 2009. Their best chance at being competitive is with those two healthy and on the field. It doesn't mean they will contend or even have a winning record, but they create a dynamic that few teams in the National League can match.
Helton reflects. Todd Helton is not going to announce he's retiring, even if all signs point toward that conclusion at season's end. Manager Walt Weiss has advised Helton to savor moments and experiences this year. The first baseman admitted that he's taking the advice, determined to enjoy this last ride. He made his 16th consecutive opening-day start Monday, the longest active streak with one team.
"It feels like it's been a long time, but man, it goes by quickly," said Helton, who went 0-for-3 with a walk.
Asked about his favorite opening-day memories, Helton listed three: his first in Arizona, when the Diamondbacks opened up Chase Field; Mike Hampton's Rockies' debut in 2001; and Clint Barmes' walk-off home run off San Diego's Trevor Hoffman.
Out of left field. The Rockies' bench will test Weiss' creativity. With Tyler Colvin trying to shake out of his hitting slump in Triple-A, Weiss said he will consider using Jordan Pacheco, Reid Brignac and Jonathan Herrera in the outfield on double switches. The Rockies, as constructed, have one reserve outfielder, Eric Young Jr.
Pacheco played two innings in the outfield in the final exhibition game in Salt Lake City. His ability to catch will also free Weiss to employ Wilin Rosario as a pinch hitter on days he doesn't start.
Footnotes. Chris Nelson made a baserunning mistake in the fourth inning, trying to advance to third on Dexter Fowler's single to right. Nelson failed to pick up the sign from third-base coach Stu Cole or realize that Wilin Rosario had stopped at third, making Nelson an easy mark in a rundown. ... Fowler was hunting a fastball in his ninth-inning at-bat against Brewers closer John Axford that tied the score. "You know he's going to come right after you," said Fowler, who delivered a team-high three hits. ... Tulowitzki's 131 home runs rank sixth all time in Rockies history. ... Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo is winless in four consecutive opening-day starts. ... Milwaukee's Alex Gonzalez made his first start at first base after spending his entire career at shortstop. In the first inning, he forgot to hold Fowler, allowing him to race free to second base, though he returned on a foul ball. ... Three Rockies made an opening-day roster for the first time: Adam Ottavino, Edgmer Escalona and Josh Rutledge.