SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- This relaxed time of players informally working out at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick had a stressful element for Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, with an arbitration case hanging over his head. Now he can relax.Just before a scheduled arbitration hearing Wednesday, LeMahieu and the club
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- This relaxed time of players informally working out at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick had a stressful element for Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, with an arbitration case hanging over his head. Now he can relax.
Just before a scheduled arbitration hearing Wednesday, LeMahieu and the club avoided it by reaching a two-year, $7.8 million contract. The contract leaves 2018 as an arbitration-eligible year. That out of the way, LeMahieu can concentrate on the cautious optimism befitting a player who is considered a building block for a team hoping to improve.
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"We've got a lot of guys coming off great years offensively and we have a great defense, the best defense in the league," LeMahieu said. "If we can finish this year and say we were extremely competitive late in the season, which we have the capability of doing, it will be a very successful year. We can surprise a lot of people this year."
LeMahieu, 27, is coming off a career-best .301 batting average and .358 on-base percentage, and a .388 slugging percentage. His only better slugging year was .410 in 2012, but that was in just 81 Major League games in his break-in season. LeMahieu won a Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2014. Although he fell short last season to the Marlins' Dee Gordon, LeMahieu's 29 Defensive Runs Saved over the last three years rank second in the Majors to the 50 saved by the Tigers' Ian Kinsler.
LeMahieu could be an important contributor this season, especially because shortstop Jose Reyes -- last year's No. 2 hitter in the order -- could be facing MLB disciplinary action over an offseason domestic-violence arrest. To the Rockies' knowledge, Reyes has not had a hearing with Commissioner Rob Manfred, who could issue a suspension in addition to other discipline and counseling/care.
LeMahieu has generally hit well lower in the order but feels he can perform well at No. 2, especially with center fielder Charlie Blackmon -- his close friend and offseason workout partner -- leading off.
"Charlie is a great guy to hit behind," LeMahieu said. "He works counts, he grinds out at-bats, he works the pitcher. He gets on base all the time. But it's like my whole career, I can care less about where I hit.
"I think I'm a pretty good hit-and-run guy. If there is a time in the game where it's a good situation to hit and run, I'm probably the guy to do that. It doesn't bother me. If that makes us successful and that gets the guy over for some other guys to be successful, that's my job. I'm all about situational hitting, moving guys."
The Reyes uncertainty means his double-play partner is uncertain, but LeMahieu said that chemistry is "a little overrated." Whether it's Reyes, or a farm-system product such as Trevor Story or Cristhian Adames, or a veteran such as Daniel Descalso, "if each of us make the routine plays, it makes each of us look better."
LeMahieu said last season he didn't perform as well as in 2014, but there was not a major dropoff.
"I don't think I'm doing anything different. I just need to execute a little bit better and give our pitchers as much help as they can get," LeMahieu said. "If I focus on that, good things will happen."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.