The 24-year-old infielder played 81 games with the Rockies in 2012, sticking with the club after a July callup and hitting .297 with two home runs and 22 RBIS. He was surprised when he didn't make the Opening Day roster.
"I was disappointed, yeah," LeMahieu said before Thursday's series opener with San Francisco. "I thought I played really well at the end of last year. At the same time, I think it kind of helped me to prove that I do belong here. I think that kind of fueled me to play better."
LeMahieu hit .314 in 61 games for the Sky Sox in 2012, and posted his best start at any level this year, hitting .364 (52-for-143) with eight doubles, a home run, 22 RBIs and 34 runs in 33 games.
"When I had to tell DJ we were sending him out [at the end of Spring Training], I told him he was a Major League player and he had every right to be disappointed and to be angry with the decision," manager Walt Weiss said. "He went down there and he took care of his business. I don't think it surprised anybody here, because DJ's a pro. He just went down there and did his thing and hammered away every day and put together a hell of a month and a half down there. It's a great job by DJ."
Brignac, meanwhile, played in 29 games for the Rockies, hitting .250 (12-for-48), with his first home run coming Wednesday against the Cubs. Brignac made three appearances at second, three at third, and eight at shortstop.
"Reid's a great pro and he's done everything we've asked," Weiss said. "He's handled himself really well here. He's been a great teammate. I think it was just a matter of DJ creating opportunity for himself. In some ways, the way Nolan [Arenado] did. DJ was playing really well. It didn't really come down to something Reid hadn't done, but more just DJ creating an opportunity."
Arenado was another player on the bubble coming out of Spring Training, and though he started the season in Triple-A, he has emerged as the Rockies starting third baseman.
"Over the course of a season, the dynamics of a team will change, and it will somewhat evolve," Weiss said of the move with Brignac and LeMahieu. "You break camp, there's some young guys that you feel like you might have to protect. Then they go out there and they prove that they can handle themselves and they don't need to be protected as much as you initially thought. I think that's happened with our club. It's ever-evolving."
LeMahieu spent most of his time at second base with the Rockies last season, with Josh Rutledge starting at shortstop after Troy Tulowitzki went on the disabled list. Most of his time in Triple-A this year has been at shortstop, a position he hadn't played since college. Weiss expects to use him at second, third, and short.