COL@ARI: Oswalt exits with injury in second inning

PITTSBURGH -- Rockies veteran right-hander Roy Oswalt faced just two batters in a simulated game on Saturday before shutting it down because of cramping in his left hamstring.

Oswalt, 35, suffered a strain of the hamstring on July 7 and had been coming back speedily. But that progress stopped abruptly Saturday -- the first time he had faced hitters.

"When I first hurt it, they told me it would be a little while to get back -- it wasn't just a mild strain, It was a pretty significant strain," Oswalt said. "I was hoping to be on the field in five weeks, but it's going to be a little bit later than that."

"We're going to still do stuff. It's not like it was last time. I know the cramping is a sign of slow down, you're going too fast."

Oswalt, 0-4 with a 7.64 ERA before the injury, had hoped to throw Saturday's simulated game at PNC Park, pitch once on a Minor League rehab assignment, and return to the Rockies' rotation. Now it's unclear when he'll be able to throw bullpen sessions, much less return to the mound.

Even if it's late in the season, a return before the end of the season could be beneficial for Oswalt and the Rockies.

Having not received an offer to pitch as a starter last winter, Oswalt didn't sign with the Rockies until May and didn't pitch in the Majors until June 20. It was much like last year, when he joined the Rangers after the season started.

The Rockies, whose original hope was Oswalt would be a stabilizing influence for the rotation, can evaluate whether to make Oswalt an offer to return next year. Oswalt also has said he would like to return to the Rockies, or receive an offer from a team so he can start Spring Training rather than stay home in Mississippi and keep in shape until a team calls.

Cuddyer back with Rox, hits in cleanup spot

MIL@COL: Cuddyer's roundtripper ties the score

PITTSBURGH -- Michael Cuddyer, the Rockies' leading hitter with a .329 batting average, returned to the club on Saturday after missing two games to be with his wife, who was ill.

"Things have settled down for him at home to the point where he is able to come back and join us, and we've got him at first base tonight," manager Walt Weiss said before the middle game against the Pirates. "It'll be nice to have him in the middle of the lineup tonight."

With left fielder Carlos Gonzalez missing his third straight start because of his recurring right middle finger sprain, Weiss tweaked the lineup to have usual cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki (.324, 20 HR, 61 RBIs) bat third and Cuddyer hit cleanup.

Cuddyer started at first base, which ended veteran Todd Helton's string of starts at eight. Weiss wanted to rest Helton a day in Pittsburgh, and decided to do it with Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano on the mound. But don't expect the Rockies to go back to their early-season schedule, when Helton was essentially a part-time starter who shared first base with Jordan Pacheco, who has been sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

"I expect to be running him out there pretty regularly," Weiss said.

Gonzalez appeared in Friday night's 4-2 victory over the Pirates as a defensive replacement in the eighth and ninth innings. Gonzalez said he hopes to return to the starting lineup on Sunday afternoon.