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Rockies' Stewart hitting power stride

Rockies' Stewart hitting power stride

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Simply lifting his batting average above its current .241 would be nice for Rockies infield prospect Ian Stewart, but he will be judged by the damage his hits do. So the fact his last two hits have been home runs is significant.

The team's top pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, Stewart hit 40 home runs in his first 188 professional games. But he hasn't hit more than 17 in a full season since. Last year, he hit 15 at Triple-A Colorado Springs and one in a 35-game trial in the Majors, mostly as a pinch-hitter. The Rockies need Stewart to provide power, whether it's in the Majors or at Colorado Springs.

"It would be upsetting if I didn't produce some home runs and RBIs because that's the player that I am and the team expects me to be," said Stewart, who homered off the Mariners' J.J. Putz on Tuesday and the Rangers' Eric Hurley on Saturday.

After a slow start to his spring, Stewart's efforts to shorten his stroke are paying off in better plate discipline and more contact. "Over the last couple of weeks, I've really felt good, and I'm taking good at-bats," Stewart said. "I'm happy where I'm at."

Stewart is a natural third baseman but has been playing second in camp, competing for the starting job or at least add a position so he can be used off the bench. If he doesn't win significant playing time, the Rockies are likely to send him back to Colorado Springs to start regularly.

Unless Stewart catches fire, making the team out of Spring Training could be difficult. Garrett Atkins is a mainstay at third and a host of middle-infield types playing second, Jeff Baker, Clint Barmes and Omar Quintanilla, play more positions and would be more likely to play in a utility role.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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