Arenado homers in third straight game

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Nolan Arenado is getting mighty comfortable in the Rockies' lineup. He started his third straight game on Monday and homered for the third consecutive day, bringing his Cactus League tally to four, tied for best with Cleveland's Ryan Raburn.

"They're giving me my opportunities for at-bats, but they're trying to get me ready for the season, no matter where it's at," Arenado said before the game. "I'm thankful for that. I feel good. Spring Training, you want to get as many at-bats as you can to get ready for the season. Maybe there is an opportunity, but I've always believed there's an opportunity no matter what. I just got to take it in and enjoy what's going on."

A week ago, the 21-year-old Arenado, the Rockies' No. 2 prospect and No. 62 overall prospect, seemed destined to make his Triple-A debut, the fifth stop on a five-year progression through the Minors. After Monday's 2-for-3 effort, Arenado is hitting .412 (7-for-17) with a gaudy 1.235 slugging percentage.

"I don't want to go to Triple-A, that's not my goal," Arenado said. "My goal is to come in here and make the big league team. That's going to be my goal, always. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, but I still want to be up here. I don't want to go down."

Standing in his way is Chris Nelson, whose .301 average in 111 games for the Rockies last year made him the prohibitive favorite to open the season at third. The Rockies want Arenado where he can play every day, so it's either win the job with the Rockies or wait for his day at Triple-A.

"You don't put a limit on a kid and say regardless of what happens he can't make the club," manager Walt Weiss said of Arenado's prospects. "That's not the case."

While there may be uncertainty in the Rockies' front office about whether Arenado's maturity has caught up with his bat, he is definitely more grounded than he was a year ago.

"I'm trying to hit the ball hard, that's my mindset right now," Arenado said. "Last year, I was like, 'I need to do this, I need to do that.' Right now, I'm just trying to hit the ball hard. That's all I can ask for."

And his glove? Arenado started a 5-4-3 triple play for the Rockies in Thursday's win against the Reds.

"I just love playing with those guys," Arenado said after starting in a lineup with seven likely Opening Day starters. "And I want to play with them for a long time."