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LeMahieu reworks timing, impressing Rockies

LeMahieu reworks timing, impressing Rockies
DENVER -- Rookie DJ LeMahieu joined the Rockies in search of offensive rhythm. Now he's ready to dance.

LeMahieu, acquired in a December trade with the Cubs, began the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs and struggled during his first callup to the Majors, hitting .205 from May 25 to June 21. But in 54 games (48 starts) since returning to the big club on July 21, LeMahieu has hit .307 with a home run and 17 RBIs.

A year's worth of gradual improvement has come together in his last five games entering Wednesday, during which he was 8-for-19 (.421) with two triples, two doubles and four RBIs. LeMahieu, who worked with manager Jim Tracy in Denver and then with hitting coach Carney Lansford in Arizona last offseason, said a leg kick he adopted during Spring Training started him on the road to success.

"I just started that in Spring Training, and I talked a lot with Tracy and Carney about it," said LeMahieu, who entered Wednesday hitting .288 overall, with one homer and 19 RBIs. "That was good for timing, that and using my lower half a little bit better. Those guys have really helped me.

"I've always stuck with the leg kick. I felt that it gave me really good timing. I knew what I had to work on with the lower half. It was such a habit of so many years. It was tough to break. Now it's a quick adjustment for me."

The Rockies knew when they acquired LeMahieu -- along with Tyler Colvin, while sending third baseman Ian Stewart and Minor League relief pitcher Casey Weathers to the Cubs -- that he could play several infield positions. But the development of his hitting could make him a viable part of the team's infield future.

Tracy said LeMahieu had "no rhythm to his swing" during the hitting sessions in Denver, in which Colvin and Triple-A infielder Brandon Wood also took part. After that, Tracy said LeMahieu's habit of collapsing his back leg robbed him of power and necessitated the remedial work with Colorado Springs manager Stu Cole and hitting coach Rene Lachemann.

"We see glimpses of it," Tracy said. "What's been really exciting is the last five or six games or so. We're seeing a slight implementation of it. We're seeing balls driven over the center fielder's head. We're seeing balls hit off the wall in right-center field. We're seeing hard line drives pulled to left field.

"Combine that to what we're seeing day in and day out with his defensive prowess and his mental makeup and his field awareness. If the offensive part begins to show up on a regular basis, you've got a really solid baseball player on your hands. You've got a winning baseball player on your hands. His makeup is off the charts."

It could make for an interesting position competition next spring.

The Rockies have discussed looking at fellow rookie Josh Rutledge, who has been playing shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki's absence, at second base when Tulowitzki returns. But LeMahieu also has performed well enough to be considered for regular playing time when next season begins.

"That's the goal for everyone here," LeMahieu said. "I'm excited to see what we can do. It could be a special year next year."

Tracy said he is happy to have two options for second base.

"Nothing is etched in stone and I don't want to be sitting here talking like that's the way it's going to go moving forward," Tracy said. "Josh Rutledge has certainly represented himself extremely well upon arriving here. The difference between the two is Josh Rutledge arrived. DJ LeMahieu has come in stages."

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