Josh Rutledge sat in front of a laptop computer Saturday afternoon, nearly three hours before the first pitch, studying video of Padres starter Edinson Volquez.
The softspoken Rutledge, just 23, is firmly entrenched as the Rockies' starting second baseman. The Rockies' front office, manager Walt Weiss and Rutledge's teammates believe he has the talent to evolve into a rare player. Namely, a second baseman with finesse in the field and power at the plate.
"He's a very mature player, and the talent is there," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "He has all the tools to be a very good player in this game."
But Rutledge has reached crossroads that every young player must navigate. After his torrid big-league start last summer — he set a club record with 64 total bases in his first 25 games — he cooled considerably in September and October, hitting just .197.
The time has come for him to counterpunch against big-league pitchers who have studied all of his strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. He entered Saturday night's game with a .243 batting average, nine strikeouts vs. one walk and a meager .256 on-base percentage.
"It's a back-and-forth fight," Rutledge said. "You just have to trust what you do in the cage and in b.p. (batting practice), and then take that out to the field."
That attitude paid off in the ninth inning Friday night when Rutledge rocketed a pitch by Padres closer Huston Street into the left-field seats at Petco Park. It was Rutledge's first homer since Sept. 16, a span of 107 at-bats.