DENVER --His start Saturday was more than Jon Garland's debut with the Colorado Rockies. It was his long-awaited return to work. Garland took the mound for the first time since June 1, 2011, his long layoff following shoulder surgery finally over.
The Rockies signed Garland in late March to add a veteran to a rotation that is young and had three starters returning from injuries. Knowing Garland is a sinker-ball pitcher, the Rockies thought he could handle the challenge of pitching at Coors Field, which he did in a 6-3 win over the San Diego Padres.
Garland worked six innings on 75 pitches, including 49 strikes, and held the Padres to five hits and two runs. He got 12 outs on ground balls, including a double-play ball to end the fourth when the Padres loaded the bases with no outs but scored just once, and won for the first time since April 20, 2011, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"There was some more emotion that I wasn't expecting," Garland said. "I thought I'd be able to keep it under control, but there was a lot more there than I was anticipating."
The win was the Rockies' fourth straight, leaving them one shy of their 2012 high. The Rockies won five straight games twice -- May 28-June 1 and Aug. 19-23 -- high points in a season that ended with a franchise-record 98 losses.
And while the sample size is still small, minute really, the Rockies, whose rotation seemed suspect to outsiders, are getting good starting pitching. In five games, their starter has pitched at least six innings four times with Garland following in the wake of Jhoulys Chacin (6 2/3 innings), Juan Nicasio (6) and Jeff Francis (6).
"There's a lot to be proud of for Jon right there," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said, "having been away from pitching for that long and going out there and competing like that and escaping some trouble like he did, in the fourth, bases loaded and nobody out and minimizing the damage."
That inning began with a double by Carlos Quentin and single by Yonder Alonso followed by a walk. Garland got Alexi Amarista to ground into a run-scoring fielder's choice and Carmeron Maybin to ground into a double play.
Weiss said he gave some though to sending Garland to the mound in the seventh.
"But being he had such a long layoff," Weiss said, "that's what made my decision there. He did his job."
Tyson Ross made his Padres debut. They acquired him in a November deal with the Oakland Athletics, and he won the fifth spot in their rotation with a good spring training. Ross made it to the fifth, when he faced two batters and gave way to Brad Brach after throwing 96 pitches.
Thirty-four pitches came in the first when Ross gave up a run-scoring single to Michael Cuddyer, who had three hits and four RBIs, two on a homer in the seventh, but retired Todd Helton on a 12-pitch at-bat and stranded runners on second and third.
"He battled, he really did," Padres manager Bud Black said of Ross. "The first inning got him behind the 8-ball, but he kept us in there. He's confident, a clear-thinker. What we saw tonight was what we saw in the spring. I like the fact that he didn't do anything different tonight."
After Ross left following a walk and shortstop Everth Cabrera's second error in two games, Carlos Gonzalez singled home a run on Brach's first pitch and Troy Tulowitzki and Cuddyer followed with run-scoring singles.
Cuddyer had ice on his left wrist after the game, the result of an unsuccessful dive for a short fly to right by Jedd Gyroko that got past him for a run-scoring double in the eighth.
Carlos Quentin doubled twice and scored two of the Padres season-high three runs. They were shut out twice by the Mets to start the season in New York, scored two runs to win 2-1 in the final game of that series and lost 5-2 to the Rockies on Friday.
"Carlos is hitting the ball," Black said. "But we need to get everybody hitting the ball."
Offense hasn't been a problem for the Rockies. They are hitting .316 (56-for-177) with 30 runs in five games as well as a home run in each game and a total of 11 for the season.
NOTES: In a money saving move, the Rockies traded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Dodgers for pitcher Aaron Harang and cash considerations and then designated Harang for assignment. Hernandez, whose salary is $3.2 million this year, lost out to Yorvit Torrealba as the backup catcher. Harang's salary is $7 million this year and the Dodgers reportedly will pay $4.25 million to the Rockies, who have 10 days to trade Harang and intend to do so, thus saving about $1 million. Harang, who turns 35 on May 9, is a fly-ball pitcher who doesn't profile well at Coors Field. ... The Rockies will start their Sunday home games at 2:10 p.m. MDT, one hour later than past seasons. In the past two seasons, the Rockies have gone 11-41 on Sunday, including a major-league record 17 consecutive losses in 2011. Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior director of major-league operations, said the change was made to give Rockies players more time for rest and recovery after Saturday night games and to allow fans to have more time to do things Sunday morning before coming to the game. ... Fowler has hit safely in all five of the Rockies' games. He extended his streak with a first-inning single. Gyroko, who went hitless in four at-bats with three strikeouts on Friday, broke an 0-for -6 string with a single in the second. ... Padres manager Bud Black's daughter, Jessie, is a junior at the University of Maryland, where she competes in gymnastics on the uneven bars. Maryland is in an NCAA Regional at the University of Florida, and before batting practice, Black watched Gator Vision, which is Florida's web site, on his computer in his office as the Maryland team was individually introduced. But he wasn't going to be able to see his daughter in the meet.