DENVER -- Perhaps the biggest strides a Rockie has taken this season are the steps Jordan Pacheco has taken in making himself at home at the hot corner.
Pacheco came to Spring Training as a catcher and made the Opening Day roster in a utility role, a third catcher and a back-up at first and third. The Rockies sent him back to Triple-A in mid-April with hopes that he could get regular experience at third, and since bringing him back May 5, he has been the primary third baseman with 77 starts and a .307 average.
Early in the season you could almost see the wheels spinning in Pacheco's mind as he processed hard grounders hit his way, but as evidenced by his charging play of a slow-roller from Gil Velazquez in the third inning Saturday, bare-handing the ball and throwing to first in one motion to nail the runner, kill the rally and end the inning, Pacheco has developed big league instincts at third.
"It's a do or die play, and I'm glad I could make it for [starting pitcher Tyler] Chatwood, especially in a tough situation," Pacheco said. "You want to get to the point where everything is just a reaction. It's the same way with hitting, the same thing with any other position. Guys in the outfield, when they see that ball off the bat, they know exactly where it's going to go, put their head down and run. Same thing with the infield. When that ball's hit, you know exactly where [it's going]. As soon as you catch it, you know where it needs to go and how you need to field it."
Manager Jim Tracy stopped short of labeling Pacheco as his third baseman of the future, but he exuded pride in the 26-year-old rookie's progress over the course of the season.
"He's making plays now that you go back four and a half months ago, as soon as the ball came off the bat, you're saying to yourself, 'That's trouble. They've got a base runner,'" Tracy said. "The exposure to the position and seeing the ball coming off the bat over there on a regular basis, improved footwork, and gaining self-confidence in his throwing has changed the dynamic of this guy incredibly.
"Is he Brooks Robinson? No, he's not. But we're not asking him to be. ... Early on in the season, every throw he made was an adventure. And it's gone from that to where it's, 'Oh, it's hit to Pacheco, that guy's out.' That's really encouraging."