CLEVELAND -- The Rockies are giving center fielder Dexter Fowler time to find his lost left-handed-hitting stroke -- something that has to happen before the club addresses his future role.
The switch-hitting Fowler was on the disabled list with a left abdominal strain until Monday, when the club activated him from the DL, but immediately optioned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Fowler slumped before the injury and has a .238 average overall. From the left side, where most of his at-bats have come, he is hitting .242, but with 54 strikeouts in 157 at-bats.
Fowler struggled last year before being sent to Colorado Springs at the end of May. He was better after returning a month later. After the All-Star break, Fowler hit .280 with 12 doubles, seven of his Major League-leading 14 triples and four home runs.
However, Carlos Gonzalez, a reigning Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner, has moved from left field to center, and callup Charlie Blackmon has hit .378 in 12 games in left. Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Fowler has the athletic ability to play in the corners, just in case there isn't a starting role for him. But the conversation doesn't take place until Fowler hits.
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In his first six games with Colorado Springs, technically an injury rehab assignment before Monday's move, Fowler has gone 3-for-33 (.098) with 10 strikeouts, one double and one walk.
"I'm one of the guys that were on record -- from what I had seen toward the end of last season and where he was headed with his swing, especially left-handed -- I really thought he was gaining, big time," Tracy said. "But he has slipped back a little bit. Now there's an opportunity for us to give him a number of at-bats left-handed."
In a recent meeting, Tracy said Fowler let it be known he wasn't interested in abandoning switch-hitting. Fowler is a natural right-handed hitter who didn't start switch-hitting until 2005, his first year of pro ball out of high school.
"With all of the effort he put into hitting from both sides of the plate, to drop the ball now, he's not interested in doing that," Tracy said. "That being the case, let him have another window of opportunity to work on things, if he can get to the point where he can shorten up that swing a little bit left-handed. Then we'll move on from there."
Tracy said the idea of Fowler playing corner positions was also discussed, but Tracy said the Rockies did not want to "put so many eggs in his basket, to where he has so many different things to think about." But Tracy said Fowler should have no problem playing in the corners if he has to be a multi-position backup.
Stewart remains work in progress
CLEVELAND -- Third baseman Ian Stewart, sent to Colorado Springs on May 13 for the second time this season, has put up good Triple-A numbers, but is still a work in progress, Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
Stewart is hitting .291 with 12 home runs, five doubles, a triple and 38 strikeouts in 117 at-bats. The Rockies have asked Stewart, who went 3-for-47 with 18 strikeouts in the Majors, to adjust his hand positioning and stance.
"I get daily updates; I just talked to him on the phone the other day," Tracy said. "He's obviously doing some damage at the Triple-A level right now. When we get to the point where everyone is comfortable with the fact we've done everything we possibly can and given him every opportunity to re-instill all the confidence in himself we want him to have, we'll move forward."
One reason the Rockies can afford to make sure Stewart, who had problems with pitches middle-in, is ready is the performance of Ty Wigginton at third base. Wigginton is hitting .300 with seven doubles, five home runs and 13 RBIs since May 23.
Betancourt feels odd being back in Cleveland
CLEVELAND -- Progressive Field was the main workplace for seven years for Rockies pitcher Rafael Betancourt.
But Betancourt, whom the Rockies obtained in a trade with the Indians in July 2009, found his first return trip in a visiting uniform an odd one.
That's partly because he never thought he'd have to do that. Betancourt was a flailing infielder with the Red Sox when that organization asked him to pitch. The Red Sox sold his rights to a Japanese team, but Betancourt didn't pitch in 2002 and hooked on with the Indians in a tryout camp in '03.
"You play here for seven years and you have a lot of good memories here," said Betancourt, who is 2-0 with a 3.45 ERA in 30 relief appearances this year. "My second chance to have my career was here. They gave me a chance to pitch in the big leagues.
"After I got that chance, I said to myself, 'I want to sit here the rest of my life until I'm done playing.' When they traded me, it was kind of a shock, but they traded me to a good organization in the Rockies."
Rockies catcher Jose Morales had two pins placed in his fractured right thumb on Monday. Manager Jim Tracy said Morales returning to the club before the end of the season is a definite possibility. Morales took a foul ball off his thumb during Wednesday's victory over the Padres at Coors Field. Tracy said Morales is out for a couple of months, however.
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.