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Versatile Pacheco ready to step up for Rockies

Versatile Pacheco ready to step up for Rockies
DENVER -- The Rockies plan to return to the fence-busting, Coors Field-dominating ways of old, but Jordan Pacheco stands as a reminder that there is value in being portable.

Last year, Pacheco led the injury-affected Rockies -- and topped National League rookies -- with a .309 batting average. On the road, Pacheco's .274 average in 237 at-bats was best among Rockies with at least 200 road at-bats. Dexter Fowler's .262 was next highest. Pacheco's .300 road on-base percentage also put him on decent ground in a stat category that traditionally has been a dicey one for Rockies young and old.

After last year's 68-94 finish, the club's emphasis under new manager Walt Weiss and new hitting coach Dante Bichette will be on restoring the intimidating offense in an intimidating home park. But the Rockies will need smart, team-oriented hitters who can move runners and manufacture runs on the road, especially in an NL West where parks predominantly favor pitchers.

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Last season indicates Pacheco can forge a place for himself with the new Rockies.

Pacheco, who turns 27 on Jan. 30, finished last season with five home runs and 54 RBIs. Even with more knowledge and strength, it's doubtful he'll become a power hitter. But there is always room for a good hitter in a lineup.

"I think I need to be able to get the guy over, get him in, and hopefully I'll get better with my power numbers as I continue to get better with my approach," Pacheco said. "But it all comes with trying to make contact and doing what the team needs.

"I've just got to stay with what works for me. I want to get stronger, but I'm not a big guy and I don't want to do anything to get in the way of my swing. I do want to be stronger so I don't wear down at the end of the season. I want to be a guy that the team can depend on to have a good at-bat."

Pacheco has what the Rockies are looking for in a key area -- versatility. He became the regular third baseman while Chris Nelson battled an early-season wrist injury. Late in the season as Nelson turned hot, Pacheco moved to first base in place of Todd Helton, who missed the latter part of the year because of right hip surgery.

Also, Pacheco spent most of his Minor League time in the Rockies' organization at catcher. He received decent reviews in five games behind the plate at the end of the season. Sometime before the start of camp, Pacheco said, he will go to California for three days of workouts with Rockies catching coach Jerry Weinstein.

The workouts with Weinstein are an indication that the Rockies are preparing to increase his catching time. Last year's season-opening tandem consisted of Ramon Hernandez and rookie Wilin Rosario. Hernandez battled injuries all season, which forced Rosario into more action than his experience had him ready to handle. Hernandez is reportedly healthy, but the Rockies -- with a full roster except pitching holes to fill -- could trade Hernandez to a club in need of catching help. Even without dealing Hernandez, the Rockies will have more flexibility for in-game moves if they deem Pacheco ready for increased catching duty.

"I think I'm just a baseball player," Pacheco said.

He has quickly become a popular one. Pacheco spent the weekend in Grand Junction, Colo., where the Rockies have a Rookie-level club, working with young players at a baseball camp.

"It's nice that everyone knows who you are and appreciates what you do, taking time out to come down and help the little guys," said Pacheco, who returned to his Albuquerque, N.M., home on Tuesday morning. "There's no better feeling as a person."

By sticking with his strengths, Pacheco could find himself appreciated by the Rockies this season.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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