DENVER (AP) – D.J. LeMahieu used irritation as inspiration to work his way back to the big leagues.
The Colorado Rockies infielder thought he had done enough in spring training to earn a spot with the team. Instead, he was one of the last players left behind.
With anger came a new attitude — to prove that he indeed belonged. LeMahieu sparkled this spring at Triple-A Colorado Springs and earned a promotion Thursday when the Rockies designated infielder Reid Brignac for assignment. In another move, the team placed left-hander Jeff Francis on the 15-day disabled list with a strained groin and recalled right-hander Rob Scahill from Colorado Springs.
Manager Walt Weiss said it was a tough decision leaving LeMahieu behind this spring and was hoping he would respond in just this kind of fashion.
“He went down there and did his thing and hammered away every day,” Weiss said. “I told him he was a major league player and he had every right to be disappointed and to be angry with the decision. I think over the course of a season the dynamics of a team will change. It will somewhat evolve. I think that’s happened in a sense with our club. “
“The opportunity for D.J. presented itself, on top of the fact that he’s done really well down there,” Weiss said.
LeMahieu took it out on opposing pitchers, hitting .364 with the Sky Sox. He also had one homer, 22 RBIs and 34 runs scored in 33 games.
“I was disappointed, yeah,” said LeMahieu, who batted .297 in 81 games with Colorado last season. “I think that kind of fueled me a little bit, to play better to show that I deserved to be up here.”
LeMahieu simply forced the Rockies’ hand by playing so well in the minors, just like highly touted prospect Nolan Arenado earlier this season.
“It was just a matter of D.J. creating an opportunity for himself,” said Weiss, who plans to use LeMahieu at second, short and third. “D.J. is playing really well. It didn’t really come down to something that Reid hadn’t done, but I think it was more D.J. creating an opportunity.”
Brignac was acquired from Tampa Bay on Feb. 14 and hit .250 in limited action.
The Rockies have yet to announce who will take Francis’ spot in the rotation on Sunday against the San Francisco Giants. Colorado may possibly go with righty Tyler Chatwood or lefty Drew Pomeranz, who are both pitching for the Sky Sox.
Francis injured his groin in the second inning of Colorado’s win against the Cubs in Chicago on Tuesday. He ended up throwing six solid innings and giving up one run. Francis also slid awkwardly into second base in the game, tweaking his right knee, but said that wasn’t giving him any trouble.
He’s not sure how long the groin will sideline him, but it prevented him from throwing a bullpen session on Thursday.
Just when he was finding his form again, too.
“I’ve been struggling a bit since the first week of the year,” said Francis, who’s 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA this season. “But to put an outing like that together was very rewarding.”
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