Slow spring doesn't bother Atkins
Rox third baseman confident he'll produce when games count
PHOENIX -- Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins has moved beyond the experimentation stage of Spring Training.
Much of Atkins' Spring Training has been devoted to basic hitting mechanics such as keeping his weight back and keeping his hands "inside the ball" -- baseball parlance for keeping the swing compact and allowing the barrel of the bat to stay in the hitting zone as long as possible.
It hasn't led to many hits, but Atkins isn't caring much about his numbers this time of year.
"It's been a consistency thing," Atkins said. "One at-bat will be bad. One at-bat will be good. I was just trying to get more consistent.
"I started today trying to just forget about things, trying to treat it like a regular-season game, almost."
Atkins was swinging with a little more freedom in the Rockies' 6-5 victory over the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park. In between two ground balls to third base, one of which was hit hard, he sliced a single down the first-base line against Brewers starting pitcher Manny Parra.
The hit provided an example of how the proper swing can yield a hit, despite less-than-solid contact. A big, looping swing would have been a weak pop fly, at best. Chances are it would have been a swing and miss.
For the record, Atkins is batting .225 with two doubles, a triple and six RBIs. He has 12 strikeouts against four walks.
On the list of concerns on the mind of Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, Atkins' spring batting average is, well, nowhere.
"I think progress is being made," Hurdle said. "I think he had a game two or three games ago [against] Chicago where he barreled two or three balls and didn't get a hit.
"I get tired of answering questions about Garrett Atkins when he's not hitting. Go to the book. Check the media guide. He'll hit."
Atkins was fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2005, when he hit .287 with 13 home runs and 89 RBIs. He followed that up by hitting .329 with 29 homers and 120 RBIs in 2006. After struggling for two months last season, Atkins was one of the hottest hitters in baseball from June 1 on and finished with a .301 average, 25 home runs and 111 RBIs. In 492 Major League games, he has 118 doubles.
His ability to hit line drives and produce with runners on base will be key this year as he bats behind cleanup man Matt Holliday. Atkins also has shown an ability to accept walks, which could help power-hitting Brad Hawpe behind him in the order.
For the final week of the spring, Atkins intends to demonstrate exactly how dangerous he can be.
"I'm going to go out there and get the job done, whatever it takes," he said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.