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07/05/05 8:27 PM ET
Atkins named NL Rookie of the Month
Third baseman hit .364 in June with three homers, 26 RBIs
By Mark Thoma / MLB.com
Garrett Atkins missed the first month of the season with a hamstring strain he suffered two days before Opening Day. He certainly hasn't wasted any time making up for it. On Tuesday, Atkins was voted National League Rookie of the Month for June by national media. The 25-year-old batted .364 during the month and led all NL rookies in RBIs (26), hits (39), at-bats (107) and doubles (nine). He also tied for second with 15 runs scored. Atkins also hit three home runs in the month, but he doesn't consider himself a pure power hitter, choosing instead to focus on being a consistent hitter for average. He led the Minor Leagues with a .366 batting average last year at Triple-A Colorado Springs and was hitting .301 in 59 games through Monday. "For me, power comes in bunches," Atkins said. "I got into a groove early in the season, and I've gotten into a groove lately. It's not something I'm trying to do. It's something that happens when I'm hitting the ball well." Atkins has made the most of his long balls this season, though, as the Rockies are 4-2 when he homers. Against Detroit on June 10, his two-run homer provided the only offense in the Rockies' 2-0 victory. And June 28 against the Astros, his first career grand slam lifted Colorado to a 6-5 win. The big blow capped a five-run eighth inning, with which the Rockies erased a 5-1 deficit at home. Atkins said he didn't even remember rounding the bases until he got to third. "I told myself to slow down," Atkins said, "because it might never happen again." Manager Clint Hurdle, though, is pretty sure that it will. Atkins went 0-for-5 on Monday in the series opener against the Dodgers, popping out with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning. Even when struggling, Hurdle is impressed with the way Atkins handles himself. "He had at-bats last night, opportunities, [but didn't come through], and he's the first one out here to hit early today," Hurdle noted. "You can say, 'Well, any young kid ...,' but there's a focus and a look in his eye that he's just got work to do. It's not about being in the right place at the right time to be seen. He's got a plan. He has an idea of how he wants to get there and what it's going to take to get there." Atkins isn't complacent, knowing that months like he had in June aren't easy to come by for most players. "I had a good month," he said. "I swung the bat well, the best that I've done in the big leagues so far. Hopefully, I can build on that month, build some confidence. Hopefully, I'll be solid the rest of the year. I've still got a ways to go." So, too, do the other NL rookies, who couldn't keep pace with Atkins. The June award was the second won by a Rockies player this year, as shortstop Clint Barmes won the NL Rookie of the Month award after batting .410 in April. Jason Jennings won the award in August 2002 en route to the NL Rookie of the Year award. Other rookies receiving votes for this June's award were: Nationals outfielder Ryan Church (.368, four homers, 13 RBIs); Braves outfielder Kelly Johnson (.267, four homers, 16 RBIs); Braves outfielder Ryan Langerhans (.325, one homer, seven RBIs); Braves third baseman Wilson Betemit (.325, three homers, eight RBIs); Dodgers starting pitcher D.J. Houlton (4-1, 4.30 ERA, 26 strikeouts); Astros center fielder Willy Taveras (.343, 18 runs); and Rockies reliever David Cortes (1-0, 0.84 ERA in 10 2/3 innings). Atkins will receive a specially designed trophy to commemorate his award.
Mark Thoma is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.