SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes spent the last year being overshadowed by the talent of Troy Tulowitzki. Now Barmes has another chance to shine, and feels prepared to do so. Tulowitzki suffered a strained left quadriceps Tuesday night, which means Barmes could see increased duty at his old position. Barmes had already supplanted Jayson Nix as the starting second baseman. Last year, Tulowitzki wowed the fans at Coors Field in his rookie season, so much so that many believe he deserved the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. What fans didn't see was Barmes, who spent most of the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, hitting his stride defensively.
By the time he rejoined the club late last season, he was not only well above average at shortstop but was able to take the footwork and hand-eye coordination he had developed to other positions. The difference between the beginning of Barmes' Major League career, when he looked mechanical, and the end of last season and this spring was startling. Barmes, who entered Wednesday afternoon's game with the Giants hitting .290, credits a trip to winter ball in the Dominican Republic after the 2005 season for allowing him to change the way he looked at the shortstop position. The transformation actually occurred not during games, but before them. For a guy who'd try to make every step perfectly and position himself as if he was being photographed for a "how to play shortstop" manual, hanging out with young players not far removed from the sandlots and streets where they just simply played was a revelation. "I watched a lot of the young Latin guys, and it was almost like everything was loose and smooth," Barmes said. "I went over there and tried to imitate what they were doing. Before, I was trying to be perfect with everything -- left, right, glove down in front. I got so mechanical and made a lot of errors on in-between hops. It was hitting off my hands, off my chest, up my arm. "Now I can adjust. I can watch the ball with the freedom to react to it. I realize it doesn't matter what it looks like as long as you make the play." Barmes said current Rockies third-base coach Mike Gallego, who worked with him in the Minors, tried telling him to loosen up. But Barmes played multiple positions until becoming a full-time shortstop as a junior at Indiana State the year before the Rockies drafted him, and he wanted to do it right. "This is the wrong game to be a perfectionist," he said. Gallego loves the transformation. "'Barmie' is a thinker, but when he is a reactor, he is more effortless, more relaxed, more consistent," Gallego said. "I thought it would be a good idea for him to go down there and watch those kids play, so free and easy, and he got something from it. "I give him all the credit. Now he enjoys the game and is not concerned about all the trash that comes along with it, as far as mentally."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.