DENVER -- Deep into his fourth big league season, outfielder Eric Young Jr. is having the best month of his career.
Young homered Tuesday and Wednesday, going deep in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. His .451 (23-for-51) average in August entering Thursday is the best in the Majors, as is his .464 average since July 31. He's had 10 multi-hit games while starting 13 of the Rockies' last 15 games, and has five multi-hit games in a row.
As a result, when Michael Cuddyer returned to the lineup Thursday after a 15-day stint on the disabled list, he moved to first base, making room for Young in the outfield and filling a void left when Todd Helton went on the DL Aug. 6 for right hip arthroscopy.
"You cannot take it away from him -- not going to," manager Jim Tracy said of Young's chance to stay in the outfield mix. "Not fair to him or the ballclub. We're going to continue to run him out there to different spots in the outfield. He's swinging the bat as well as a player can swing the bat right now, [and] the progress he's made defensively has created an interesting dynamic."
Young entered the season as a career .246 hitter, with last year's .247 in 77 games marking a career high in both categories. With increased playing time this year (94 games entering Thursday), he is hitting .323 (52-for-161), and he extended his hitting streak to six games with a leadoff single against the Marlins on Thursday.
"He's bringing quite a bit of energy to the top of our lineup," Tracy said. "He's playing at a very high level right now, he's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's doing a lot of very positive things for the club. He's helped to energize this club over the last couple of weeks."
Young has paced the Rockies to a 7-7 August, having won six of their last nine, including a three-game sweep of the Brewers. They haven't played .500 for the course of a month since April (11-11).
"We've played very consistently offensively, and our starting pitching has been better," Tracy said. "I saw [we're] 34-33 when our starter pitches five innings. We have a winning record. That says an awful lot about this team, the character, the fact of recognizing the area that we need to improve in. We're making strides in that direction."
Cuddyer 100 percent, but returns at first base for now
DENVER -- Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer was back in the lineup for Thursday's series opener against the Marlins after spending the minimum 15 days on the disabled list with a right oblique strain.
Cuddyer was playing first base, however, where he'll get the bulk of the playing time for the time being. He's 100 percent recovered from the injury, as he explained, but using him at first base makes room for the hot-hitting Eric Young Jr. to play regularly. Cuddyer has started 68 games in right field and 22 at first heading into Thursday's tilt.
"Everything was good -- no issues, no problems at all," Cuddyer said of his two-day rehab stint with Triple-A Colorado Springs. "It feels good. Didn't get hurt."
Cuddyer went 6-for-9 with a double, a homer and three RBIs while facing pitchers who topped out in the mid-80s. He hit cleanup in Thursday's Rockies lineup, the role he's filled since Troy Tulowitzki went on the DL at the end of May.
To make room for Cuddyer, the Rockies sent rookie Matt McBride back to Colorado Springs. McBride made his Major League debut on Aug. 4, going 2-for-4 and starting a two-game hitting streak. He cooled off with irregular playing time, however, going hitless in his last nine at-bats to end up at 4-for-20.
McBride hit .354 (130-for-367) for the Sky Sox before his callup, hitting 10 homers with 77 RBIs while playing first base, left field, right field and catcher. He was shaky on defense during his stint with the parent club.
"With Matt McBride, [we want] to get him back to Triple-A, and over the course of these last few weeks of their season, to get him some regular at-bats again and then revisit our situation in September," manager Jim Tracy said. "I think it's safe to say that that would be one of the names that would be [on the] table as we get closer to September and the callups."
Chacin likely to return to rotation next week
DENVER -- Based on his superb rehab start in Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday night, Jhoulys Chacin should return to the Rockies' rotation early next week for the first time since going on the disabled list May 6 with right shoulder inflammation.
"That would be the plan," manager Jim Tracy said before Thursday's series opener with the Marlins and before Chacin's start against Albuquerque. "We'll wait and see how he does tonight. But the plan moving forward is to eventually, if all goes well like it's gone the last couple of times that he's been out, if he has a good outing tonight and comes away cleanly from a health standpoint, we're going to figure something out and work him in.
"There's a possibility of working him in [to the rotation] in New York [next week]. That's a strong possibility."
The possibility looked like a certainty after Chacin threw seven innings of one-run ball, yielding five hits and three walks while improving to 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in two starts at Triple-A. He threw 91 pitches, 55 for strikes.
The 24-year-old Chacin was the No. 3 starter when the Rockies opened the season, but he went 0-3 with a 7.30 ERA in his first five starts. He is in his fourth big league season, having won 20 games over the past two seasons while posting an ERA of 3.28 in 2010, and 3.62 in '11.
Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa is also making progress as he works back from the Tommy John surgery that ended his 2011 season.
"Jorge De La Rosa threw a 45-pitch bullpen [session] today," Tracy said. "My understanding is that he was turning the fastball loose pretty good today. He was letting it go, which is really encouraging to hear."
Of the 45 pitches De La Rosa threw, the first 40 were fastballs and changeups, with some curves mixed in among his final five pitches.
De La Rosa, 31, has a career 54-49 record with a 4.90 ERA. He has pitched for Colorado since 2008, winning 39 games, including a career-high 16 in 2009.
In other injury news, rookie infielder Josh Rutledge continues to nurse a sore left quad, and Dexter Fowler was out of the lineup with a tight back.
"He's been dealing with this for the last couple days, but [head athletic trainer Keith Dugger] felt fairly strongly that it would be a pretty good idea to back off him for a day and let [the training staff] do some things to him," Tracy said of Fowler. "Hopefully we'll have him back tomorrow."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.