DENVER -- The job is the same for Tyler Colvin, but the results this year with the Rockies are far more positive than last season with the Cubs. Colvin, 26, is a fourth outfielder who has worked his way into a higher place in Rockies fans' hearts by hitting .286 with a home run, a double and a triple while appearing in 13 of the team's first 18 games this season. Demonstrating patience and a controlled swing -- something that eluded him as he hit .150 last season and was deemed expendable by new Cubs management -- Colvin has been a much-needed option for manager Jim Tracy, who has had to deal with the early-season illness of left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and a slow start by center fielder Dexter Fowler.
Colvin has hit safely in five of his seven starts. Although he went 0-for-3 when starting in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday with the Pirates, his eighth-inning sacrifice fly gave the Rockies a 2-1 victory. "I've definitely gotten a warm reception," Colvin said. "I think it's from how I play the game. I've always run out ground balls and stuff. Fans that know the game appreciate that. I get in there and do my job whenever I have the opportunity, and that hasn't hurt me at all." Tracy also likes that Colvin can play all three outfield positions. Colvin started Wednesday's first game in center field, where he made an impression during the spring. Tracy compares Colvin's economy and efficiency of movement defensively to that of Gonzalez, a Gold Glove Award winner in 2010. "Seeing him as a Chicago Cub, I knew he was a good athlete, but I didn't know that he was as versatile an athlete as we have seen going back to Spring Training," Tracy said. "He's a very adequate defender at first base, too. "He's pretty graceful. He may not look like the fastest guy in the world, but he gets a tremendous jump on the ball and he's very graceful in his gait to the ball. He's not running and his head's bouncing and as a result the ball is moving." The Cubs' top pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of Clemson, Colvin had not even played in Triple-A when he was called up in 2009 and made the team unexpectedly in 2010. That year, Colvin hit .254 with 20 home runs and 56 RBIs. The only rookie to hit more homers was the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton, with 22. Last year, Colvin tailed off badly and found himself at Triple-A Iowa in May. But there's no telling how much an odd incident between his best days as a rookie and the struggles of last season had to do with the downturn. On Sept. 19, 2010, in a road game against the Marlins, Colvin was the runner at third when teammate Welington Castillo's bat shattered. The big part flew toward Colvin and the upper part punctured his upper chest. Colvin was hospitalized and treated because air had entered the chest wall. He not only missed the remainder of that season, but the recovery delayed his preparation for 2011 -- when his swing became pull-happy and therefore inconsistent. The Cubs dealt him for two former Rockies No. 1 Draft picks, third baseman Ian Stewart and right-handed reliever Casey Weathers. With a full offseason to prepare, Colvin impressed the Rockies by hitting .373 with three home runs and 18 RBIs in Cactus League play. "By not being hurt, getting full offseason workouts in let me know that my body is ready for everything," Colvin said. "In 2011, I didn't really start working out when I wanted to, with everything that happened at the end of the year. This year I know in my head, you know, that I put all the work in and I'm fully prepared. It makes it a lot easier to move ahead." No matter how much he moves ahead, there are fans and reporters to remind him of the strange incident. The injury was such a freak occurrence that he doesn't think about it unless reminded. Because Castillo was using a maple bat and there was already discussion that those broke often and were dangerous, it sparked talk of banning them. Well, Colvin still uses maple. "My bats weren't the problem," he said with a chuckle. "I have nothing to worry about. It's one of those freak accidents. It's not going to happen again." Colvin's goal is to prevent the overswinging that led to last year's slump from making a recurrence. "It was a great learning experience," Colvin said. "I can't go back and undo anything. I have to look back and know what I did wrong, know what I had to do to fix it. I know what to do now. "It's easy to want to grip the bat as tight as you can and let it loose, try to hit a homer. But you've got to make sure that in the situation you've got to get your hit and get the job done. It doesn't have to be pretty. I don't have to hit it 500 feet." The Rockies brought Colvin to Denver during the winter to make some points about his swing. Even more, they made him feel at home. "As soon as I got traded, it was, 'This is what we're looking for. This is what we're expecting,'" Colvin said. "It just made me a lot more comfortable than I really thought I was going to be right off the bat."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.