Notes: Taveras happy to be at Wrigley
Leadoff hitter finds the Friendly Confines welcoming for bunts
CHICAGO -- Fans from all over marvel at the bright, green grass at Wrigley Field. Rockies leadoff hitter Willy Taveras lights up when he sees it as well.
Taveras' love for the surface at Wrigley is deeper than cosmetic. It invites him to bunt for hits, something he has succeeded in doing far more often than any other Major Leaguer.
Taveras leads the Majors with 24 bunt hits. No other player has more than seven. His 34 infield hits also lead baseball. And greeting him at Wrigley, where the Rockies opened a three-game set with the Cubs on Monday, is one of baseball's longest, thickest infields.
"The grass has always been tall here," said Taveras, whose 115 bunt hits over 2005 and 2006 while with the Astros were most in baseball. "I love it."
Speed, of course, is Taveras' main tool. But knowledge of infields -- whether, for example, the foul line is painted on the edge of the grass or in the middle of the basepath -- helps. And it helps to have a friendly length and thickness to the grass.
Over the past couple of seasons, Coors Field has gone from a tough place to bunt to paradise. Not only is the grass soft, but the dirt area is as well, which not only helps keep bunts in play but helps catchers field bouncing pitches.
"In '05, it was real low, but if you hit the ball on the ground hard it was a base hit, because the ball went fast," Taveras said. "But now it's soft. It's real nice. I hope they keep the grass the way they're keeping it."
Taveras said one key to bunting for hits successfully is not worrying about the bunt being perfect. Even if it isn't directly on the line or doesn't find a spot that no fielder can reach, it's a good play for him because fielders tend to rush.
The willingness to bunt means Taveras may not walk as much as some leadoff men. His .358 on-base percentage in 254 leadoff at-bats going into Monday was fourth among National League leadoff men with 200 or more at-bats. But he believes the havoc he causes when he bunts successfully makes up for a few on-base points.
The Mets' Jose Reyes led the aforementioned leadoff hitters with 52 runs in 72 games. The Braves' Kelly Johnson had 46 runs in 72 games and the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano scored 49 in 68 games. Taveras had 41 runs, but in just 59 games.
Taveras missed five games with tightness in his right groin and three other games with a lacerated right index fingernail.
"Don't get me wrong, I want to walk," Taveras said. "But at the same time, I have to be aggressive, and I want to put pressure on the pitcher and the defense."
Reynolds has shoulder trouble: Right-hander Greg Reynolds, the Rockies' No. 1 Draft pick last season out of Stanford, was scratched from his start for Double-A Tulsa on Sunday because of the recurrence of shoulder soreness has sidelined him for a little more than a month.
Reynolds is 5-1 with a 1.42 ERA in eight starts, but he didn't pitch between May 15 and last Tuesday, when he threw five two-hit, shutout innings in a no-decision against Wichita. After scratching him Sunday, the Drillers announced that he will be examined in Denver.
That means Reynolds has been scratched from the Texas League All-Star Game.
Staying sharp: Utility man Jeff Baker, who has tried to stay sharp with sporadic playing time, returned to the bench Monday after going 1-for-6 in starts on Saturday and Sunday against the Blue Jays.
Baker, batting .242 with two home runs and seven RBIs, said John Mabry, who began the season with the Rockies but was released May 19, helped him with the role.
"I've put into action a lot of the stuff he talked about," Baker said. "Like, if you're not getting a lot of at-bats, go down and stand in on pitchers' bullpen sessions and try to track pitches, then take the batting practice preparation like it's a game.
"During games, as a pinch-hitter sometimes you come inside and look at the TV to see if the pitcher's ball is running or cutting, or to know how his curveball is breaking."
Interleague wrap: Despite losing three straight to the Jays, the Rockies were successful in Interleague Play once again. After leading the National League by going 11-4 last year, the Rockies went 10-8 this year, the most wins of any NL club. The .556 winning percentage was second-best to the Cubs' .667 (8-4).
Up next: Right-hander Rodrigo Lopez (4-0, 2.93 ERA) will face Cubs lefty Ted Lilly (5-4, 3.90) on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. MT
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.