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Defense establishes LeMahieu at second

PHILADELPHIA -- This time last year, DJ LeMahieu was a week into being called up to the Rockies and trying to prove he could be an everyday player at second base rather than a utility backup. Now it's not even a question in manager Walt Weiss' mind.

Rather than move LeMahieu to third -- a position he plays well -- when Nolan Arenado sustained a broken left middle finger on Friday night, Weiss has kept LeMahieu at second and filled in at third mostly with Charlie Culberson.

LeMahieu had to work for two years to establish himself as someone who should not be moved. Injuries forced LeMahieu into starting duty at second in 2012, and he played solid defense in 81 games. Last year, the Rockies sent him to Triple-A Colorado Springs to work at shortstop, but Josh Rutledge's slow offensive start led the Rockies to recall LeMahieu last May 16. Having finished last year batting .280 and putting up enough defensive stats to earn the Rockies' Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award, based on advanced statistics, LeMahieu has found a home.

"I like being over there, and defense is one of my strengths," LeMahieu said. "I don't mind moving around, either; I've been there, done that plenty of times before and could do that easily as well."

One of the possible perks of remaining at second is such recognition as last year's Wilson award or the Rawlings Gold Glove Award.

According to the Baseball Prospectus Web site, LeMahieu is worth six "total zone runs," which ties him with the Giants' Brandon Hicks for tops in the National League. "Total zone runs" is a number above or below the average player based on the number of plays made. LeMahieu led the league in range factor per nine innings last year, but he doesn't show up in the category nearly two months into this season. How all this translates into statistical measures and perceptions of those who vote on the Gold Glove will reveal itself when the season ends.

"I help our team quite a bit defensively at second," LeMahieu said. "Are awards a goal? Not necessarily. I just try to make plays, try to get our pitchers out of big situations. Awards are something way, way down the road."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.
Read More: Colorado Rockies, DJ LeMahieu