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Nelson's hot streak boosting Salt Lake Bees

Published July 25, 2013 11:03 pm

PCL baseball • Infielder boosting Bees with strong hits.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Chris Nelson has always found ways to thread balls around fielder's gloves.

In Thursday's third inning, he drove a hit just over a leaping first baseman. In the seventh, he shot a grounder between third and short.

As he showed in a 9-4 Salt Lake Bees win over the Fresno Grizzlies, Nelson is resourceful when it comes to putting the ball in play. The 27-year-old infielder is batting .400 in July, finding a comfortable niche as a gap-seeking, reliable right-handed hitter.

"He's a baseball player, so he just wants to hit," manager Keith Johnson said. "Wherever you put him, it gives him a chance to swing the bat."

He's no stranger to late-season hot streaks. Last year, Nelson led all big-league third basemen by batting .344 after the All-Star break for the Colorado Rockies.

These days, Nelson is glad to have the opportunity to swing the bat. The veteran infielder bounced from coast to coast this season after the Rockies, the team that drafted him in 2004, traded him to the New York Yankees. He started a handful of games in the Bronx before getting shipped to the Angels, who then sent him to Salt Lake after a few starts.

But where many would've been mired in frustration, Nelson has accepted his fluid situation with poise.

"I got scorecards, I got baseballs, I just really embraced it and made the best of it," he said. "My father taught me that a long time ago: You can be sad about it and mope, or you can go down to that cage and get some work in."

In fact, Johnson said, Nelson's levity has been an asset to the clubhouse, and his willingness to adapt is a big reason why the Bees are leading their division.

Nelson played third base against Fresno on Thursday, starting a double play and enjoying an error-free night. But he's also played shortstop, second base, and even experimented in left field as the Bees have tried to expand his repertoire.

The more hats he wears, the better his prospects will be of getting back to the majors, Johnson said.

"There's always organizations out there looking this time of year," he said. "Especially guys who can play in the middle of the diamond."

Until then, the hottest team in the PCL is a good place to be.

"I'm enjoying my time here in Salt Lake," Nelson said. "The weather's perfect, the fans get into it, and we're in first place — can't get much better than that in Triple A."

Pioneer League

Raptors 8, Owlz 5 • Ogden's five-run fifth inning boosted it to a win over host Orem. —

Storylines Bees 9, Grizzlies 4

R Starter Jarrett Grube gets eight strikeouts in a seven-inning start.

•Â Andrew Romine and Trent Oeltjen each hit home runs.

• Romine and Chris Nelson lead the team with a pair of hits each.