When the Mariners last saw the Colorado Rockies, they were at the end of spring training. By mutual consent, the two teams always close their Cactus League schedule with two games against one another.
The Rockies, at the time, were a young club beset by injuries and loaded with questions. The Mariners were a veteran club with high expectations — "Whatever It Takes" — and still had most of their rotation in place.
Fast forward to Memorial Day.
Much has changed as the two clubs begin a four-game split series with games Monday and Tuesday in Denver before concluding with games Wednesday and Thursday at Safeco Field.
The Rockies have the best record in the National League at 33-19 thanks largely to a collection of young arms. The Mariners are mired at the bottom of the American League West with a rotation in tatters and a lineup struggling for runs.
Colorado is on a roll, too, with 10 victories in its last 14 games while outscoring opponents 89-45. The Mariners (22-29) have lost 12 of their last 17 while getting outscored 91-41.
The Mariners did depart Sunday from Boston on a positive note. Their 5-0 victory over the Red Sox averted a three-game weekend sweep at Fenway Park and marked their best all-around game in roughly three weeks.
Playing at Coors Field, like any National League park, presents a problem for the Mariners: What to do with designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who leads the American League with 41 RBIs.
The Mariners put Cruz in right field last week for two of three games in Washington. In one, he failed to catch a two-out deep fly ball, which resulted in an RBI triple and led to an eight-run inning.
"We need him in the lineup," manager Scott Servais said. "There’s no doubt. Coors Field certainly has its challenges. I played for the Rockies. I worked for the Rockies. I’ve seen a lot of games there.
"It’s just a matter of the defense. There’s a lot of area to cover out there. No decisions yet."
***The pitching matchup for Monday’s opener is right-hander Sam Gaviglio (0-1 with a 1.38 ERA) against Colorado right-hander Tyler Chatwood (4-6, 4.50). The game starts at 12:10 p.m. Pacific time and can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***Gaviglio is a rookie making his fourth appearance and third start. He has never faced the Rockies.
***Chatwood is in his sixth big-league season but his only previous game against the Mariners came as a rookie in 2011 while pitching for the Angels. He gave up five runs in 6 1/3 innings in a 5-1 loss.
***Jean Segura is 5-for-15 with a double and a homer in his career against Chatwood. Cruz is 2-for-6, Danny Valencia is is 3-for-5 and Robinson Cano is 2-for-3.
***The Rockies’ record (33-19) is the best in franchise history through 52 games.
***The four-game split series represents a change in the MLB scheduling approach. The Mariners are no longer linked every year with San Diego as their "natural" interleague rival. That tag now rotates for the Mariners among San Diego, Colorado and Arizona.
***Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon leads the majors with 70 hits, 45 RBIs, seven triples and 131 total bases.
***First baseman Mark Reynolds, whom the Rockies retained by signing in February for $1.5 million, is batting .320 with a club-high 13 homers and 43 RBIs. He entered the season with a .234 career average over 10 years.
***The Rockies acquired Chatwood in a Nov. 30, 2011 trade with the Los Angeles Angels. It was one of the first deals made by then-Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto. The Angels received catcher Chris Iannetta in return.
***The Mariners have a 19-15 edge in the all-time series, including 9-8 at Coors Field.
***Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto (1997-2000) and manager Scott Servais (2000) both played for the Rockies. Dipoto also served as a special assistant to Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd in 2001 and as the club’s director of player personnel in 2005. Servais served as a pro scout for the Rockies in 2005.
It was 17 years ago Monday — May 29, 2000 — that center fielder Mike Cameron took a home run away from Herbert Perry in the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field.
The play seemed to spark the Mariners, who trailed 3-0 at the time. They scored four runs in the bottom of the inning and went on to win 5-4. Edgar Martinez contributed a two-run single to the four-run rally.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners