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LeMahieu determined to compete, contribute

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Thanks to an improved swing that took months to hone, Rockies infielder DJ LeMahieu went from forgotten man to starting second baseman by the end of last season. Now he simply has to make sure he isn't forgotten again.

The conventional wisdom in camp is the Rockies are looking at Josh Rutledge, who played shortstop last season after Troy Tulowitzki was hurt, as their second baseman. Rutledge displayed more power last season than LeMahieu.

If Rutledge holds the starting spot, LeMahieu will be part of a crowd of players seeking backup infield jobs. LeMahieu simply is out to show new manager Walt Weiss that he is prepared to help the team.

"There's going to be another opportunity, whether it's right away this year, later this year, next year or whatever," LeMahieu said. "There's going to be another opportunity and I'm going to be ready for it.

"I'm coming in here and competing. You could look at it both ways, but I think I'd be cutting myself short to be just trying to make the team."

The improvement LeMahieu showed last season suggests he can't be counted out. A Cubs second-round pick out of LSU in 2009, LeMahieu was acquired by the Rockies before last season. Then-manager Jim Tracy and former hitting coach Carney Lansford saw an area where LeMahieu could quicken his swing, and they began working with him before Spring Training.

LeMahieu began the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs and earned a promotion in May, but hit just .205 in 19 games before being returned to Triple-A.

But after returning to the Majors on July 16, LeMahieu sizzled at a .316 clip for the rest of the season to bring his final number to .297.

"With the Cubs, I'd always hit, so no one wanted to bother me too much," LeMahieu said. "But Tracy took it upon himself to say, 'He's hit, but he can be better. ... A lot better.' I agreed with him, bought into what he was saying -- he and Carney, both -- and benefitted a lot."

LeMahieu finished with just two home runs and 18 extra-base hits in 81 games (65 starts), but he believes there is more power in his bat.

"I don't think anyone goes up here and says, 'I'm going to go up there and hit a home run in this at-bat' -- well, maybe 'CarGo' [All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez]," LeMahieu said. "But it's taking the right approach, hitting the ball harder, hitting the ball a little more out front. I grasped that concept last year and it's working well so far this year."