Twins-Rockies Preview


Participating in Monday's Home Run Derby at Target Field should be a nice homecoming for Justin Morneau, who won an AL MVP during his 10-plus seasons with the Minnesota Twins.

Some memories from that stretch of his career likely will resurface before that, though, as the Colorado Rockies first baseman faces his former team for the first time Friday night at Coors Field.

Morneau helped guide the Twins to five AL Central titles before being traded to Pittsburgh on Aug. 31. He signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with Colorado in the offseason and has had a solid first half, hitting .313 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs.

That earned him a chance to play in the All-Star game in Minnesota, but he lost out on the NL team's final spot to Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo via the fan vote.

Aside from his 2006 MVP season, Morneau finished second in the 2008 voting and was a four-time All-Star with the Twins.

"The last year and a half in Minnesota, I wasn't sure if I was leaving or staying," Morneau told MLB's official website. "When the trade was made, it was the best thing. It put an end to the uncertainty, but it was tough."

Morneau and his teammates also have found it tough to battle through a difficult time for the Rockies (39-53), who have one of the worst records in baseball. Colorado won its first home series in nearly two months with Wednesday's 6-3 victory over San Diego.

Troy Tulowitzki, hitting a majors-best .350, extended his hitting streak to eight and hit a pair of solo homers to give him 20 on the season. He hit two homers over his previous 28 games.

Tulowitzki played for Rockies teams that reached the World Series in 2007 and the playoffs two years later with second-half surges, and he's hoping this team can do the same.

''That's something I'm trying to preach to these guys. Anything can happen,'' Tulowitzki said. ''It's been a rough first half but second halves here, those playoff-run years have been pretty good.''

Making some sort of run should be more realistic with Carlos Gonzalez back. The Rockies outfielder, who hasn't played in the majors since June 3 after surgery for a benign tumor in his left index finger, is expected to return for this contest, playing in right field instead of his usual left.

The Rockies lost 18 of 21 prior to winning Tuesday and Wednesday, with Jorge De La Rosa earning each victory in that dismal stretch. Despite having a chance for a fourth straight win, he hasn't pitched up to his standards.

De La Rosa (9-6, 4.75 ERA) went 2-2 with an 8.03 ERA over his previous five starts before giving up two runs and three hits in six innings of Saturday's 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"Every game is important for us," De La Rosa said. "I know the team has been struggling the last month, but we've got enough time to get out of this and be in a good place."

The left-hander will get his first look at Minnesota since 2007 while opposing Kris Johnson in this contest.

Johnson allowed four hits and walked six over 4 1-3 scoreless innings of Minnesota's 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in his only appearance this season May 1.

The left-hander, who is 8-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 16 starts for Triple-A Rochester, will be recalled after Ricky Nolasco went on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow strain.

"I know last time he was up here his pitch count got high, but he has good stuff," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The last-place Twins (42-49) will be seeking a season high-tying fourth straight victory after beating Seattle 4-2 on Thursday.