03/21/12 2:30 AM ET
Herrera benefits from clearer mind
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Herrera's mother succumbed on Nov. 20, and all Herrera could do after that was rest. Herrera is a regular participant in the Venezuelan Winter League and Caribbean World Series, but not this past season."I didn't have the opportunity to focus and think about baseball," Herrera said. "I told myself that was a good moment to shut it down, concentrate and get ready for this year, Spring Training, fighting for my spot on the team." Herrera has consistently made his case in a competition for backup infield spots that includes catcher/infielder Jordan Pacheco, Chris Nelson (who could emerge as the starting third baseman should Casey Blake not prove healthy enough coming off neck surgery), Brendan Harris and Brandon Wood. During Tuesday night's 10-6 loss to the Padres in Peoria, Herrera started at second base and delivered a two-run triple in the fourth inning and scored on DJ LeMahieu's squeeze bunt. Often coming off the bench the way he would as a utility backup, Herrera is hitting .432 with four doubles and five RBIs in 12 games. "He's a solid baseball player, a thinking man's baseball player," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "He's always aware of what the situation is when he walks up to home plate." Last year, the Rockies intended to make Herrera a utility player who could start in long stretches. But with Ian Stewart struggling through injuries and slumps at third base, and with fellow infielders Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton not producing consistently, Herrera was forced into more duty than Tracy wanted. Herrera, however, believes he can handle regular duty if necessary. "The beginning of the season was really good for me," he said. "I did a really good job in the beginning for two months. Then in the middle, a lot of things happened. So hopefully this year I will be healthy all year long and I can do my best, try to do the job I did at the beginning of last year. "People say that if you're not that tall or you don't have too much weight, you get tired. You can see lots of big leaguers that area really skinny and they play all the time. I'd like an opportunity to show I can play 150 games in a season."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.