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Cook declares himself ready to rejoin Rockies' rotation

DENVER — Aaron Cook pronounced himself ready to return to the Colorado Rockies' rotation after pitching a simulated game Saturday.

Whether the Rockies decide to add him to their World Series roster is still uncertain.

Cook hasn't pitched in a major league game since Aug. 10, sidelined by a strained muscle in his side, and had mixed results against the Rockies' regulars. He walked the first two batters he faced and surrendered a home run to Kaz Matsui.

Cook, who faced 16 batters and allowed four hits, didn't see his performance in the simulated game as an audition for the playoff roster.

"No, I feel like I've done enough to audition," Cook said. "I was the opening-day starter this year. I've been in the organization 12 years now. So, today is just going out there and proving that I'm still healthy."

The Rockies, who successfully reinserted Willy Taveras into the lineup for the NL championship series, are contemplating adding Cook to the rotation and bumping rookie Franklin Morales to the bullpen.

That would give manager Clint Hurdle a third left-handed reliever to go with Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Fuentes. The odd man out in all this would be reliever Taylor Buchholz, who hasn't pitched in the playoffs yet.

The Rockies decided against adding Cook to the roster for the last round, a decision that Hurdle called the toughest of his managerial career.

Hurdle said the Rockies have to guard against an emotional decision. Cook has been in the organization longer than anybody on the roster except Todd Helton and made a comeback after developing life-threatening blood clots in his lungs during a game against the Cincinnati Reds three years ago.

"You have to find a way to step back and be objective," Hurdle said. "But you also have to pay attention to skill sets and pitches and performances and maybe history and things of that nature. You just need to have acute vision."

The Rockies certainly had that in the last round, when they inserted Taveras into a lineup that was doing just fine and the speedy center fielder rattled the Arizona Diamondbacks. Taveras sparked the winning rally in Game 1 and made a spectacular diving catch to save in run in Game 2, which the Rockies won in 11 innings on Taveras' bases-loaded walk.

Could Cook, who was 8-7 with a 4.12 ERA, have a similar impact in the World Series?

"Sure, he's our ace," left-hander Jeff Francis said.

"Cookie was our guy all year," concurred right-hander Josh Fogg. "I mean, Jeff has been our No. 1 guy, but Cookie was our No. 1-A guy."

Cook, who aggravated his injury during a minor league rehab start on Sept. 1, said he's been fully recovered for two weeks.

Still, the Rockies are wondering how risky it would be to return him to the rotation on the biggest of stages "because we can't give him the test we want to give him," Hurdle said. "We can't have him throw in a game to hitters. That's the test he needs to have next."

That's why the Rockies had him pitch to their regulars Saturday in their second day of simulated games as they await the World Series, which starts Wednesday night.

Cook said he told the coaches he'd pitch out of the bullpen if they were concerned about spoiling a rotation that has a 2.31 ERA in the playoffs — but the relievers own an even better 1.38 ERA this postseason.

Cook has certainly enjoyed watching the Rockies win 21 of 22 games but said he feels left out.

"It is tough to sit and watch," Cook said. "But at the same time, with the way the guys have been playing, it's a little easier to go out there and cheer them on."