SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies infielder Chris Nelson made sure his taste of Major League action lasted.
Nelson, 25, the team's top pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, hit .280 in his first 17 big league games last season. Then he spent the offseason in Denver, training at Coors Field, rather than returning home to Georgia. He lived with Rockies Minor League infielder Jason Van Kooten, who played at Double-A Tulsa last year.
"I felt pretty good about it last year," said Nelson, whose time in the Majors is best remembered for his eighth-inning steal of home against the Reds to give the Rockies a 6-5 victory on Sept. 9. "I felt pretty good about it this year, too. I worked pretty hard to get a job, and that's what I'm going to do now."
Drafted as a shortstop, Nelson battled injuries for much of his early career but stayed healthy last year and put himself on the big league radar by expanding to other positions. He also hit a career-best .313 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Nelson said next for him is mastering the finer fundamentals, like advancing runners, bunting and making the routine defensive plays at all of his positions.
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When the Rockies traded second baseman Clint Barmes to the Astros during the offseason, Nelson was thought to be a prime candidate for the second-base job. The acquisition of veteran Jose Lopez from the Mariners most likely pushed Nelson back in the utility category.
Nelson saw action at third base in Saturday's Cactus League opener against the D-backs. With regular third baseman Ian Stewart out for 5-6 days with a slight sprain of his right medial collateral ligament, Nelson could see more time at the position over the next several days.
"The infield is the infield to me," Nelson said. "There's a little bit more footwork at second. Other than that, it's just catching the ball and throwing to the next guy to me."
The Rockies were not sure about Nelson until he made progress during Spring Training a year ago. Manager Jim Tracy said on numerous occasions that when he arrived as a coach in 2009, it didn't seem baseball was as important to Nelson as it was in spring of 2010.
Nelson is happy he has given the Rockies a good current impression.
"Baseball's always been real important to me," he said. "It's been my whole life since I've been growing up. Maybe it just shined a little bit more than usual."