PEORIA, Ariz. -- A year later, Rockies infielder Josh Rutledge is understanding Spring Training.
Rutledge had the odd experience of appearing in the Majors -- hitting .274 with eight home runs, 37 RBIs in 73 games when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was injured in 2012 -- before ever spending a spring in big league camp. Last year, he went to Major League camp as the starter at second base, posted a .211 Cactus League batting average and took bad habits into the season. He was in Triple-A Colorado Springs by late May and DJ LeMahieu took off with the second base job.
Rutledge, 24, is having a better 2014 spring. Monday's 3-for-4 exhibition performance that included a double and a solo home run in a 9-7 victory over the Padres left his Cactus League batting average at .304.
Manager Walt Weiss has LeMahieu established as the starting second baseman and there is plenty of competition for the backup infield spot. Paul Janish singled off the bench to raise his average to .452, and he has several seasons of utility experience, Charlie Culberson is batting .294, and Ryan Wheeler is at .333 and has left-handed power potential, although he plays the corners and not the middle infield.
But Rutledge is pushing his way into the competition. As a third-round pick out of the University of Alabama in 2010, he also has raw ability that the Rockies are hoping will help him flourish.
This time, Rutledge doesn't have a job thrust into his hand, which may have created some pressure in 2013.
"I'm sure it did at times," said Rutledge, who bounced between the Majors (.235 batting average, seven homers, 19 RBIs in 88 games) and Colorado Springs (.371, four homers, 24 RBIs in 38 games). "I think I did a good job of learning from it and figuring out a different way to look at things.
"It's just a lot of work in the cage, work in the field, working with a bunch of different coaches, watching all the film of past swings and trying to mimic those. It's showing in the game."
Weiss said, "He's so talented. That's why we haven't given up on the fact we feel he can be an impact player."