DENVER -- A forgotten positive in the Rockies' difficult season is switch-hitting utility man Jonathan Herrera's strong season -- a .289 batting average in 77 games of sporadically placed playing time.
Herrera, 28, is the type of player whose impact is lost on a team that's out of the pennant race. He plays second base, shortstop and third base, can move to the outfield, and his strength offensively is handling the bat and moving runners. His playing time dwindled when it became clear the Rockies weren't in the playoff race, since the priority became seeing callups.
Yet, he has managed to shine. Herrera had just 60 plate appearances from Aug. 1 to Saturday, and managed to hit .358 and compile a .407 on-base percentage.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss said he made it a point to let Herrera know how much he is appreciated.
"He's a valuable part of our club, and I've had a couple conversations with Johnny here lately, just to communicate that to him because, at times, I think I have probably overlooked him and maybe he warranted a little bit more playing time than he got," Weiss said. "Sometimes it's a bit of a curse, being so good at what he does. I told him Mike Gallego [a former Rockies coach, now a coach with the Athletics] was like that. I played with Gallego a long time. He was so good at being the utility guy that people saw him that way and it sometimes made it tougher to get an everyday job.
"But Johnny's one of those guys that has gotten so good at being that utility guy that can give you plus defense at any infield position that it's a very valuable piece, especially on a National League club."
The offense, which includes a .332 on-base percentage, is a plus.
"He's got a simple approach," Weiss said. "The fact he's hitting for a high average is really impressive. Typically, those role players, you don't put a lot of stock in their numbers if they're not good, because you know how difficult the job is and their value was more in their versatility and the needs they could fill on the ballclub. But Johnny's gone above and beyond."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.