DENVER -- Perhaps the biggest strides a Rockie has taken this season are the steps Jordan Pacheco has taken in making himself at home at the hot corner.
Pacheco came to Spring Training as a catcher and made the Opening Day roster in a utility role, a third catcher and a back-up at first and third. The Rockies sent him back to Triple-A in mid-April with hopes that he could get regular experience at third, and since bringing him back May 5, he has been the primary third baseman with 77 starts and a .307 average.
Early in the season you could almost see the wheels spinning in Pacheco's mind as he processed hard grounders hit his way, but as evidenced by his charging play of a slow-roller from Gil Velazquez in the third inning Saturday, bare-handing the ball and throwing to first in one motion to nail the runner, kill the rally and end the inning, Pacheco has developed big league instincts at third.
"It's a do or die play, and I'm glad I could make it for [starting pitcher Tyler] Chatwood, especially in a tough situation," Pacheco said. "You want to get to the point where everything is just a reaction. It's the same way with hitting, the same thing with any other position. Guys in the outfield, when they see that ball off the bat, they know exactly where it's going to go, put their head down and run. Same thing with the infield. When that ball's hit, you know exactly where [it's going]. As soon as you catch it, you know where it needs to go and how you need to field it."
Manager Jim Tracy stopped short of labeling Pacheco as his third baseman of the future, but he exuded pride in the 26-year-old rookie's progress over the course of the season.
"He's making plays now that you go back four and a half months ago, as soon as the ball came off the bat, you're saying to yourself, 'That's trouble. They've got a base runner,'" Tracy said. "The exposure to the position and seeing the ball coming off the bat over there on a regular basis, improved footwork, and gaining self-confidence in his throwing has changed the dynamic of this guy incredibly.
"Is he Brooks Robinson? No, he's not. But we're not asking him to be. ... Early on in the season, every throw he made was an adventure. And it's gone from that to where it's, 'Oh, it's hit to Pacheco, that guy's out.' That's really encouraging."
Brown back in bigs, fills slot in middle of lineup
DENVER -- For the second game in a row, the Rockies took a hit to the middle of the lineup and had to make a late-night call to their Triple-A affiliate to fill a slot.
Friday night, three-hole hitter Carlos Gonzalez learned his grandfather had passed away and left the team to go home to Venezuela on bereavement leave for three to seven days. He was replaced by outfielder Charlie Blackmon.
Saturday night, clean-up hitter Michael Cuddyer re-injured himself two days after coming off the disabled list with a strained right oblique.
The second call to the Sky Sox, who were playing a series in Salt Lake City, went to Andrew Brown, who hit .208 with the Rockies from July 17-Aug. 2.
"I had showered and started to get dressed and I had three missed calls and two voicemails from our trainer thinking I was already gone back to the hotel," Brown said of receiving the word. "I hadn't even left the clubhouse yet. They just told me that I was coming back. I'm excited to come back and get another opportunity to do my best."
Brown has shown promise of his best while with Colorado Springs, where he has hit .308 (120-for-390) with 24 home runs and 98 RBIs in 100 games.
"He's got some power," manager Jim Tracy noted before Sunday's series finale with the Marlins. "With the hit that we've taken in the middle of the order... If he enters himself into the equation from a lineup standpoint, I'd say that there's probably a strong chance that he'll end up in the middle somewhere. I'm not going to ask Charlie Blackmon to do that. I'm not going to ask Dexter Fowler to hit fourth. I'm asking him to do a hell of a lot right now."
Brown's previous stint with the Rockies was a happy interruption from a strong season at Triple-A, and it took him a little time to get his rhythm back after intermittent playing in the Majors. He hit .250 (14-for-56) in 14 August games for the Sky Sox, but he was getting back in the groove when he got the call and benefited from a return to regular playing time.
"I wasn't on the same pace as I was before, which I felt was a pretty hard thing to get back to, but I felt like I did pretty well while I was there," Brown said. "Getting into the everyday grind of playing again down there, getting to see pitches on a consistent basis -- it was nice to do that again."
Cuddyer hitting DL leaves Rox with holes to fill
DENVER -- When Michael Cuddyer went back on the disabled list after re-injuring his right oblique Saturday night, the Rockies found themselves looking to fill multiple holes.
Though Cuddyer was the Opening Day right fielder and started the season hitting sixth in the order, he has served as the Rockies primary cleanup hitter since Troy Tulowitzki went on the DL at the end of May and was slotted to be the primary first baseman with Todd Helton having season-ending hip surgery in early August.
"It takes quite a bit of punch out of our lineup, there's no getting around that fact," manager Jim Tracy said Sunday. "You've got some young kids and you can definitely say they're coming around very nicely. But to put a little bit more on their plate than you really want to, that's also something that you bear in mind. We have to make our adjustments accordingly.
"Hopefully we'll get CarGo back here sometime next week. That's the area of our lineup that has taken a real hit here."
Tracy said the Rockies training staff would "treat [Cuddyer] like crazy" in hopes of getting him pain free and back on the roster this season, but obliques are tricky injuries. Cuddyer had felt fine through his previous rehab stint and his first game-and-a-half back off the DL until a swing in his third at-bat Saturday re-aggravated the injury.
"There's a possibility of [shutting him down for the season]," Tracy conceded. "I won't rule it completely in that that's the case, but I won't rule it out either."
In the meantime, with Helton, Jason Giambi and Cuddyer all on the DL, outfielder Tyler Colvin will be the go-to guy at first.
"Absolutely he is," Tracy said of Colvin being his primary first baseman of the moment. "There could be matchups that make sense for Colvin to stay versus certain left-handed pitchers. You've got the combination of [third baseman Jordan] Pacheco and [Chris] Nelson, where you can bring Pacheco over and have Pacheco play there. And actually, [catcher] Ramon Hernandez can play [first]."
Hernandez caught and hit clean-up Sunday with Colvin at first hitting fifth. Tracy also likes Sunday's call-up Andrew Brown's power, as evidenced by his 24 homers and 98 RBIs in 100 games at Triple-A this season, and indicated he could slot into the clean-up role if he plays well in the Majors.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.