DENVER -- The weather outside was gray and drizzly when Larry Walker returned to Colorado for a four-game series with the Rockies, but Walker was all sunshine and smiles about the chance to play back in the town he called home for 10 years.
It's been hard for Walker not to have a sunny outlook since arriving in St. Louis last August as part of a trade that brought him to St. Louis. He has enjoyed being in first place for all but one week of the four months he's logged with the Cards, not to mention his first trip to the World Series.
"Nothing but good things," Walker said of the experience. "You come to the park always happy because you're winning and you're in first place. It's the greatest."
The only cloud on Walker's horizon as he waited for Monday's series opener was the fact that his name was not in the lineup. Walker came into town with a sprained left ankle, sustained when he caught his cleat on the wooden dugout steps when leaving the field in the fourth inning of Saturday's game against Washington. A wet Coors Field was not the ideal setting to test the ankle, but manager Tony La Russa was optimistic he'd have Walker available for most of the series.
"Ankles are tricky," La Russa said, adding that he hoped to have Walker in right field for Wednesday's game. "As soon as he's ready, he plays. I think he could pinch-hit [Monday]."
Throughout his career in Colorado, Walker was known as a five-tool, power-hitting, Gold Glove, rocket-armed MVP and three-time batting champ who was considered one of the game's best base runners. In St. Louis, he's focused on adapting to the responsibilities of being a "table-setter," following leadoff hitter David Eckstein and setting the stage for Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds.
In his first full season with the new offensive role, Walker -- a career .313 hitter overall and .383 at Coors -- is sporting a .262 average and a .360 on-base percentage, with only one less run scored than Pujols in 54 fewer at-bats. His priority, however, has remained on the all-important team statistic: the win-loss record.
"I'm obviously happy we're in first place by 7 1/2 games, so No. 1 out of the chute, that's the first thing that gets looked at," Walker said. "I'm not overly ecstatic with my numbers. I never am. Nobody ever is. I could be hitting .600 right now, and I'd probably still be [upset] about something. That's the way we all are. But we're in first."
Otherwise, Walker is happy with his role as a part of the division's most potent offense.
"It's weird getting up five times in a game," Walker said. "I'm not used to that. If I got up five times in a game, usually it was a blowout, but now it doesn't necessarily have to be a blowout, because I'm hitting second.
"I don't mind it. I enjoy scoring runs. I enjoy running the bases. It's all good. I've got a lot of great hitters behind me. If I can just get on base, those great hitters [will] move me around."
The trade to St. Louis brought about another move -- away from his mountain property outside of Denver. Though the house is on the market, Walker still owns it, and brought his family "home" for the first time in six months when the team pulled into town Sunday night.
Larry Walker / RF
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
"We're waiting for people to hopefully come along like we did and fall in love with it," Walker said. "We hate selling this place, because we love it. Quiet, beautiful, everything is just awesome. We miss it."
The less-than-hospitable Colorado weather couldn't dampen Walker's enthusiasm for getting out with his family on the mountain trails his daughters have grown up on.
"I hopped on my little four-wheeler and took the girls for a ride like I always do," Walker said, joking about being second-guessed in the press for doing just that last spring while he was on the DL. "Whether you're hurt or not, you can always ride a four-wheeler five or six miles an hour with a kid on it."
Hagin homecoming: Cardinals radio broadcaster Wayne Hagin also had a homecoming in returning to Colorado, where he was the Rockies broadcaster for 10 years. He was not greeted warmly by the Rockies, however, as they are still smarting over comments Hagin made in Spring Training that were interpreted as suggesting Todd Helton experimented with steroid use in his first season in the big leagues.
The Rockies requested Hagin avoid entering the St. Louis dugout or clubhouse for interviews, advising him, as Helton relayed the message to the media, that "it would be best if he kept his distance."
Altitude adjustment: The Cardinals are coming off a homestand that saw their starting pitchers go seven innings in five of the six games, meaning they are bringing a well-rested bullpen for their four-game series in Coors Field.
"It's a different park," La Russa admitted, downplaying the idea of making any special preparations to play in Colorado. "You never know going in what kind of game you're going to have. There's a lot of conditions that favor hitters. A lot depends on how much your bullpen's been working. Everything depends on how fresh they are. You just go in and try to think along with the situation as you face it."
Baby Birds: The Triple-A Memphis Redbirds lost, 5-0, to Oklahoma on Sunday. Anthony Reyes (5-2, 2.51) allowed just one run in four innings, but took the loss. ... The Double-A Springfield Cardinals split a doubleheader at Frisco, winning the first game, 2-0, and losing the second, 7-6, in 11 innings, after taking the lead in the top of the inning on a Juan Diaz solo homer. ... The Class A Palm Beach Cardinals shut out the Tampa Yankees, 3-0, behind five scoreless innings from Buddy Blair (2-0, 0.75). ... The Class A Swing of Quad Cities lost, 9-7, to Wisconsin, despite Jake Mullinax's grand slam. Rick Ankiel hit his third homer in seven games.
Randy Leek (5-2, 2.85) is the player of the day for his shutout in the first game of Springfield's doubleheader, in which he allowed three hits and no walks.
On deck: Mark Mulder (7-1, 3.72) takes the mound Tuesday against Colorado, riding a seven-game winning streak into Coors Field.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.