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Stewart dazzles on defense

Stewart dazzles on defense

CINCINNATI -- Two seat-of-the-pants defensive plays by third baseman Ian Stewart during Friday night's 7-2 victory over the Reds took Rockies manager Clint Hurdle back.

"He's made four plays like that since he came up, two last night, but Graig Nettles was the guy like that made that play that way -- very athletic," Hurdle said.

Stewart dove for ground balls, rolled to the seat of his pants and threw out Adam Dunn and Jeff Keppinger to jog Hurdle's memory of Nettles.

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But Nettles ended a strong, if underrated, career in 1988, when Stewart was 3 years old.

"He said he was going to go look him up last night or today on his computer," Hurdle said. "I said, 'If there wasn't a guy named Brooks Robinson, you'd be well more aware of Graig Nettles playing third base defensively.'"

Stewart admitted that he hadn't searched out old highlights of Nettles, who played for six teams but was known best for his run with the Yankees (1973-83). But, Stewart figured, it's the thought that counts.

"I'd heard of him," Stewart said. "I'd never seen him play or anything like that, but I guess if you make a good play and you get compared to somebody, it's a good thing."

The Rockies drafted Stewart in the first round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft for his power, but he's not just a stationary swinger. Hurdle said Stewart's athletic ability is the reason the club moved him to second base during Spring Training to fill a hole.

Now, Stewart is showing what he can do at his natural position. He also went into Saturday with at least one hit and one RBI in each game -- 12 RBIs total -- since being recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs. He has an overall .304 batting average.

He believes he can be valuable even when the hits don't come.

"Not every night you can come out and get a bunch of hits or drive in a bunch of runs, but if you can save a couple of runs or a couple of hits, some nights you'll trade that off," Stewart said.

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

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