Stewart hopes to make most of call up

Stewart hopes to make most of call up

DENVER -- Ian Stewart actually learned from his mistake Friday night. But Triple-A Colorado Springs manager Tom Runnells wanted to reinforce it after the game.

Or, at least that's what Stewart thought.

"It was kind of a slow hit ball, and I tried to get the forceout at second, but we didn't get him," Stewart said. "I kind of knew he wanted to talk to me about it when he called me into his office. But then he told me, 'Oh, by the way, you're going up.'"

The conversation might have been indirect, but there is no mistaking the opportunity Stewart has with the Rockies, who called Stewart up Saturday and designated infielder Jayson Nix for assignment. If Nix clears waivers, he'll be in line to join Team USA for the Olympics.

Stewart will operate as the regular third baseman, with Garrett Atkins moving to first base as the Rockies come to terms with the extended absence of Todd Helton, who is out with a back injury. It's the best chance yet for Stewart, 23, the Rockies' top Draft pick in 2003.

This is the second opportunity this season for Stewart, who hit .218 with three home runs and five RBIs from May 23-June 20. But that was an emergency callup in which he played second base, a position he'd barely played. This one is different.

Before being sent back down, Stewart worked extensively with hitting coach Alan Cockrell to quiet a swing that sent a few balls a long way, but also was so erratic that he struck out 28 times in 55 at-bats in the Majors.

Manager Clint Hurdle said the reports on Stewart have been fine. He is hitting .280 with a .607 slugging percentage that ranks fourth in the Pacific Coast League, for what that's worth.

"There's obviously a gap between Triple-A performance and Major League opportunity," Hurdle said. "The only way to find out is to move upon opportunities when they're presented, and this is one for Ian to move upon. We'll see what he can bring."

The moves mean Jeff Baker will get most of his at-bats at second base, and move to third when Stewart doesn't play. That relieves Baker of duty at first base, his weakest position. First baseman, Joe Koshansky, who was called up when Helton went to the disabled list on July 4, is the prime candidate to be sent down Monday, provided shortstop Troy Tulowitzki completes his rehab assignment for a hand laceration without incident.

Stewart didn't put up good numbers last time with the big club, but he left with confidence. He hit two home runs off the White Sox's Gavin Floyd on June 13, and left Denver feeling that if he made the right corrections, he could hit big league pitchers.

"I worked with Rene Lachemann [a former big league manager who is Colorado Springs' hitting coach] trying to take excess movement out of the way, take my body out of the picture," Stewart said. "I was feeling good and doing well. I'm trying to bring that up here."

Hurdle said Helton and outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, who suffered a left oblique strain on July 8, are "some distance" from returning to the lineup.

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