Colorado Rockies: Ian Stewart's Demotion Is an Opportunity To Improve

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Colorado Rockies: Ian Stewart's Demotion Is an Opportunity To Improve
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Everyone has a bad day at the office.

Ian Stewart is no exception. 

The Rockies third baseman was optioned to AAA Colorado Springs on Tuesday in a move that was, unfortunately, a long time coming.

Rockies brass is steadfast in saying that this is not a demotion for Stewart. Instead, they encourage him to view it as an opportunity to improve. 

It's no secret that Stewart has been struggling lately. In 26 at-bats so far this season, Stewart is hitting a paltry .077 (that's just two hits for those of you doing the math at home) with just one stolen base. He doesn't have any other offensive stats, other than he's struck out 11 times. 

Ouch. 

If anyone embodies the work ethic that the Rockies promote, it's Stewart. Things just haven't clicked for him this season.

It doesn't help that he missed nearly half of spring training with a knee injury. He and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez collided in the outfield in the Rockies' first spring training game back on February 26th. After examination, trainers confirmed he had sprained his right knee. 

He didn't see the field again until late March. 

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

That cost Stewart a lot of at-bats. The lack of playing time in Arizona showed from the very beginning. Stewart, who homered on Opening Day last year in Milwaukee and was one of the Rockies keys to a successful 2010, barely made the Opening Day roster this year. 

Nearly three weeks after the Rockies opened the season, Stewart has just two hits.

Something had to give, and it finally did on Tuesday.

Manager Jim Tracy noted that he wanted Stewart to play in Colorado Springs for anywhere between two weeks to a month, to make up for the time lost during spring training. The hope is that Stewart will get his swing back against Triple-A pitching, have time to work on his mechanics and solve problems with his timing that have doomed his batting average this year. 

The Rockies won't make another roster move until Thursday at the earliest, one day before they travel to Sun Life Stadium in Miami to face the Florida Marlins. The most likely move will be an infielder, such as Chris Nelson, Eric Young Jr. or Willy Taveras. Outfielders Cole Garner or Charlie Blackmon could also fill the spot come Thursday.

Pitcher Clayton Mortenson, who worked five scoreless innings of two-hit baseball in relief of Esmil Rogers against the San Francisco Giants on Monday, will remain with the team until then, though he is not available to pitch Tuesday night. 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Rockies want Stewart back as soon as possible. 

Simply put, the team is better defensively with Stewart in the lineup. His glove is the best at third base the Rockies have seen since Vinny Castilla, a member of the famed Blake Street Bombers. Don't be surprised if he doesn't "arrive" like he was supposed to last year until 2012. 

Why so long, you ask?

Look no further than catcher Chris Iannetta. 

Iannetta was having an offensive year similar to Stewart's this year. He was sent down on April 29th, 2010 in an attempt to give him time to fix his mechanics. He did, and on May 25th, he was recalled. He played well throughout the rest of 2010, but because Miguel Olivo was swinging a better bat, he didn't get a chance to shine.

Much the same could happen with Stewart. Because the Rockies have Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez to spell him at third, it's not unreasonable to think Stewart might not show his growth at the plate until the start of next season. 

The key with Stewart is patience. As long as he's in a place where he can get constant at-bats, fix his timing and adjust his mechanics, he can thrive. Playing with the Sky Sox in Colorado Springs will help him do just that.

A few years ago, Stewart was hailed as the Rockies third baseman of the future. 

It's coming soon, but it seems the future is still a little ways away. 

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