Nelson puts it all together in breakout season

Nelson puts it all together in breakout season

Nelson puts it all together in breakout season
DENVER -- Chris Nelson may be a late bloomer, but the Rockies have reveled in watching him blossom over the course of his breakout third season in the big leagues.

The Rockies' top Draft pick in 2004, Nelson has more than doubled his big league experience in 2012, playing in his 101st game Friday against the D-backs after suiting up 80 times in his previous two seasons combined.

The opportunity to play on a regular basis has led to career highs with a .292 average, nine homers, and 47 RBIs, despite two trips to the disabled list with an inflamed left wrist (May 15-31) and an irregular heartbeat (July 16-Aug. 6).

"Chris Nelson is putting together a pretty solid season for himself, there's no getting around it," manager Jim Tracy said. "There's no question of his defensive capabilities, but I think he has taken a step forward offensively.

"He has always been and continues to be one of the better two-strike hitters we have on the club. But I think what he has added to his arsenal is that he's looking to do a lot more damage when he gets himself into favorable counts."

Nelson led the Majors with a .560 average (14-for-25) last week, earning National League Player of the Week honors, the first Rockie to be so recognized this season.

Nelson hit in every game he played during the week, extending an eight-game hitting streak during which he hit .532 with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, eight RBIs, and eight runs scored.

"He's doing a much better job with early-count pitches that say, 'Be hit, and be hit hard,'" Tracy said. "If he gets himself into a favorable count, because he's worked himself into that, he's working to be much more aggressive when he gets himself into those situations. We're beginning to see much of that on a consistent basis as of late."

Though Nelson's previous opportunities had come primarily at second base, he's made 57 of 75 starts at third base this year, giving the Rockies a level of comfort at the position they haven't had in some time.

Jordan Pacheco has made the majority of starts at third with 80, but has become the Rockies primary first baseman after injuries to Todd Helton and Michael Cuddyer.

"Of all the infield positions, you know you could play [Nelson] at second, you could play him at short in a pinch, but that is his best spot right there [at third]," Tracy said. "He has a tremendous first step, both to the line and to the hole, and a throwing arm that you could arguably say will stand up to any name you want to come up with that plays third base."