Stewart taking the patient approach

Stewart taking the patient approach

DENVER -- Former Rockies No. 1 Draft pick Ian Stewart admitted that at times the presence and production of Garrett Atkins at third base discouraged him earlier in his career.

This year, Stewart decided he would simply put up numbers of his own. It helped that Rockies manager Clint Hurdle left periodic voice mails reminding him to do just that.

It paid off in a callup for Stewart on Saturday, when Colorado placed shortstop Clint Barmes and right fielder Brad Hawpe on the disabled list with, respectively, knee and hamstring injuries. The Rockies called up Stewart and outfielder Seth Smith from Triple-A Colorado Springs.

That didn't solve the problem of Atkins being in front of Stewart. But Stewart wound up getting his chance on Saturday, when the Rockies scratched Atkins -- hitting .338 with team highs for home runs with eight and RBIs with 30 -- just before the game with the Mets because of a stiff neck.

"Garrett is going to hit; he does it every year," said Stewart, the top selection in 2003. "I'm not going to think about where I'm going to play, if I'm going to be here or he's not. I maybe thought about that stuff when I was first coming up. But he's such a great player, it's not something I need to worry about."

Stewart, 23, arrives with a .281 batting average, 12 home runs and 43 RBIs in 46 games. Stewart sizzled from May 4-18, going 19-for-46 (.413) with 13 runs, five doubles, two triples, six home runs and 21 RBIs to earn consecutive Pacific Coast League Hitter of the Week honors.

"I think I'm just playing to my capability," said Stewart, who hit .209 with a home run and nine RBIs in 35 games for the Rockies during a callup last season. "I went through a tough stretch a few weeks ago, then it just kind of came back again. I'm feeling good."

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Hurdle said Stewart will play third when Atkins either rests or moves to first to give Todd Helton a rest. He could also play some second.

"We had a nice conversation before he left on things that specifically I wanted him to take charge of, that being his attitude -- the way he showed up and the energy he played with every day," Hurdle said. "I believe he's done that, with the reports I've received.

"He went through a very cold streak in Tennessee, then he got as hot as anybody in the PCL. He won PCL Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks, and I left him a phone message. I said, 'If you win it one more week, I've gotta believe you'll be Player of the Month.' And I left him a message just a few days ago, visiting some of the things we've talked about."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.