Nix getting better all the time

Hard-working Nix getting better all the time

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Neither Rockies prospect Jayson Nix nor his brother, Laynce, who has seen action with the Rangers, would admit even the tiniest bit of competition between them.

Well, having worked with Jayson, Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox manager Tom Runnells disagrees.

When asked if there was a little bit of a competitive streak in Jayson, Runnells said, "What do you mean 'a little bit'? I guarantee you there is. Both of them want to do extremely well and outshine the other one."

The brothers, less than two years apart in age, have had a chance to shine against each other at Security Service Field this week, as the Oklahoma RedHawks are visiting for a four-game series that ends on Thursday night.

Jayson, the Rockies' top pick in 2001 and the younger of the Nixes, has never been to the Majors. Laynce, a fourth-round Rangers pick in 2000, made it to the big club in 2003, but a shoulder injury last season and a poor start to this season landed him back in Triple-A.

When asked, Jayson jokingly admitted that he thinks he's better than his brother. A little more seriously, Laynce said, "I wouldn't get anything out of wanting to be better than him," adding that each wants the other to succeed.

Both Laynce and Oklahoma have been a little more successful this week. The RedHawks won the first three games, and Laynce is 5-for-13 with a home run, two doubles and a triple. Jayson is 2-for-9.

They both said that they have enjoyed seeing each other for the past few days. Usually in the summer they only can connect over the phone, which they do every day. The two, who are very close, talk about everything.

"We're doing baseball all day long," Laynce said. "We talk about baseball some, and sometimes we don't."

Laynce jumped from Double-A to the big club, but Jayson has taken a harder route. He just made it to Triple-A this year. He has yet to play a game for the Rockies but is in his second year on the team's 40-man roster.

Runnells sees Jayson's talent.

"Jayson right now could play in the big leagues defensively," he said. "He needs to be a better hitter. That encompasses an awful lot as far as being patient, as far as taking walks, as far as execution in certain situations, higher batting average, more production."

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For the Sky Sox this season, Jayson is batting .253 with no homers and 11 RBIs. He has 18 walks and has struck out 26 times. He is second on the team in stolen bases, with six.

He has been hot recently. In Colorado Springs' four-game weekend series with New Orleans May 18-21, he went 6-for-15 with three RBIs and three runs scored.

In the low Minor Leagues in 2002 and 2003, Jayson was among those leagues' best hitters. He tied for the Minors' lead in doubles playing in high A in 2003, and was a South Atlantic All-Star in 2002.

But he stalled at Double-A Tulsa, hitting .213 in 2003 and .236 last season.

He understands that he needs to improve.

"I'm definitely not satisfied," Jayson said of his season so far. "But I am happy with my work, happy with the strides I've made and where I'm going."

That work includes taking many swings a day with Colorado Springs hitting coach Alan Cockrell. Runnells joked that Jayson is hitting a thousand balls a day.

"It's almost ridiculous how much they're working -- they're working hard here," he said.

Runnells sees improvement.

"Jayson's still a young kid improving every day," he said. "And I have seen improvements, which I am extremely delighted about. He's just getting better all the time."

Transactions: The Rockies made several transactions involving Minor League players, trading former Major Leaguer Tony Miller, an outfielder, to the Blue Jays for Minor League outfielder Jorge Sandes; dealing shortstop Juan Melo to San Francisco for future considerations; and promoting infielder Tommy Whiteman, a former Astros prospect, from extended Spring Training to Colorado Springs.

Whiteman, 26, the first pro athlete from the Crow Nation tribe, played the last two seasons at Triple-A. He was a sixth-round pick in 2000.

Sandes, 21, is in his second season in the Minors. Sandes, who hit .250 for Pulaski in the Appalachian League last season, has been assigned to extended Spring Training.

Miller, 25, was a 10th-round selection out of the University of Toledo -- where he was a football-basketball standout -- in 2001. He was Class A Asheville's Most Valuable Player in 2002 and has been a presence in the Rockies' Spring Training camp the last several years. But the system developed a load of outfield prospects, and Miller batted .145 and struck out 21 times in 45 at-bats at Colorado Springs.

Melo, 29, batted .211 with three homers this season for Colorado Springs. He was a member of the Giants organization from 2000 to 2002 and made his only Major League appearances for the club in 2000, going 1-for-13 in 11 games.

Cockrell honored: Cockrell was selected as the Pacific Coast League's hitting coach for the 2006 Triple-A All-Star game, to be played in Toledo on July 12.

Matthew Borenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.