Based on the Rockies' starter on Friday, first baseman Justin Morneau has to feel confident before his first game against the Twins after spending 11 seasons as one of the faces of the franchise.
It's been a struggle on the field for the Rockies, who have been beset by a series of bizarre injuries. Morneau, however, has been a bright point in his first season with Colorado. He has 13 home runs, and he entered Wednesday ranked among the National League leaders with a .313 average (sixth), 59 RBIs (tied with Paul Goldschmidt for second) and a .509 slugging percentage (ninth).
"It's been nice," Morneau said. "I feel I can produce again."
It is a much nicer feeling than Morneau had nearly 10 months ago, when he was told he was no longer a member of the Twins.
"There were a lot of emotions," Morneau said. "The last year and a half in Minnesota, I wasn't sure if I was leaving or staying. When the trade was made, it was the best thing. It put an end to the uncertainty, but it was tough."
Morneau lost out on the NL Final Vote, but he will be going to Minnesota for the Gillette Home Run Derby, as NL captain Troy Tulowitzki named his teammate to the squad on Thursday.
Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa will be searching for his third consecutive victory in the series opener against Minnesota.
De La Rosa gave the Rockies six innings of three-hit baseball in Saturday's start, limiting the Dodgers to two runs. At the time, that win was just the Rockies' third victory in 19 games, all three of which De La Rosa started.
Even with that stretch, De La Rosa doesn't feel the heat of any added expectations.
"I never put that pressure on myself, just try to go out there and give the team a chance to win every time," De La Rosa said.
"Every game is important for us," De La Rosa said. "We have to win the most games we can at this point, try to get in good position. 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."
In 405 1/3 innings pitched at home, De La Rosa owns a respectable 4.15 ERA with 360 strikeouts. He has registered a victory in 40 of his 70 career starts at Coors Field.
That's good news for a team that has won only seven of its past 23 home games since the calendar flipped to June.
They'll be facing a Twins team that will recall left-hander Kris Johnson from Triple-A Rochester to start Friday against the Rockies. With Ricky Nolasco going to the 15-day disabled list because of a right elbow strain, Johnson will get the nod for the Twins after going 8-4 with a 2.75 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 38 walks in 98 innings for Rochester. In his one start this season, Johnson threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings before coming out after throwing 106 pitches.
"He's been throwing great like a lot of guys down there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. 'I know last time he was up here his pitch count got high, but he has good stuff. He's been pitching well. That's who they recommended and he's in line, so I'm happy with it."
Rockies: Arenado making defensive difference since return
Third baseman Nolan Arenado may only have three hits in his 26 at-bats since returning from a broken left middle finger on June 3, but his glove work is what the Rockies truly missed.
Arenado's National League Gold Glove Award-winning defense assisted the Rockies in winning a rare 2-1 game at Coors Field on Tuesday. In multiple occasions, Arenado also showed off his superb throwing instincts by bouncing the ball to Justin Morneau when the sun was directly in the first baseman's line of vision.
As someone who played four years at shortstop in Coors Field, manager Walt Weiss knows that's a must when the sun is setting. But that doesn't make it simple.
"You're not used to bouncing the ball to first," Weiss said. "You have to judge the distance and where you're going to bounce it. You don't want to short-hop the first baseman and bounce it twice. It's not as easy as it looks, but he does it effortlessly."
And with how natural Arenado looks doing it, Weiss doesn't expect most Rockies fans to catch on.
"He does it with an ease that is probably deceiving to the casual observer," Weiss said. "His footwork is so good and his instincts are so good. ... There are a lot of things that go along with playing that position that you take for granted if you watch him play every day. But he's truly special."
Twins: Santana likely to do rehab assignment over break
Rookie shortstop Danny Santana won't rejoin the Twins this weekend in Colorado, as the Twins want him to go on a rehab assignment before returning from the 15-day disabled list.
Santana, who has been on the DL since June 27 with a bone bruise in his left knee, has been rehabbing at Target Field but isn't ready to return this weekend. He's eligible to return from the DL on Saturday.
The hope is that he'll be cleared to go on a rehab assignment over the All-Star break early next week before rejoining the Twins during their homestand that begins on July 18.
"I think if he's ready and available, we'll send him on a rehab assignment over the All-Star break," Gardenhire said. "We want to get him some swings and some at-bats and make sure his leg is OK. That's kind of what we're hoping for."
Santana, 23, has been a sparkplug for the Twins this season, hitting .328/.366/.448 with two homers, 10 doubles and six stolen bases in 37 games this season.
• The series against the Twins will conclude the Rockies' longest remaining homestand of the season. The Rockies lost the first series to the Dodgers and won the second against the Padres.
• Brian Dozier will be the 17th player from a host team to participate in the Home Run Derby, which is Monday night at Target Field. He led all second basemen with 16 homers going into Thursday's game vs. the Mariners.
Cody Ulm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.