DJ LeMahieu “Surprised” by Batting Title Talk, Looking Ahead
By Kevin Henry
DJ LeMahieu finished as last season’s Major League Baseball batting champion with a .348 average. It was a bitter pill for some to swallow because of the Coors Field narrative and his lack of playing time in the team’s final five games. Still, the Colorado Rockies All-Star second baseman says he was a little surprised by the amount of talk his title generated.
“I was a little surprised. It is what it is,” LeMahieu said. “It wasn’t a storybook ending but it worked out. I felt like I deserved it. A lot of the people saying I didn’t deserve it and all of that stuff probably didn’t even know who I was before that day so it doesn’t really matter to me.
“As a player, it’s frustrating. Obviously, (Coors Field) is a good place to hit but there are other good places to hit. At the same time, our pitchers don’t get the respect they deserve. It’s just one of those things that’s either going to take a really long time to change it or it never will happen.”
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It was a great 2016 for the 28-year-old LeMahieu, who notched career-highs in hits (192), doubles (32), triples (8), homers (11) and RBI (66), among other statistics, but he’s ready to turn the page and look ahead to 2017.
“We’re ready to get going,” said LeMahieu, who joined teammates Chad Bettis and Tony Wolters on the first stop of the Colorado Rockies Caravan on Monday afternoon at the Coors Brewery in Golden. “I’m excited to get back out on the field and see all of our guys again. We made some great additions and I’m just excited to get back out there.”
So how does he follow up a statistic-packed season like last year? LeMahieu said defense has been a priority for him in the offseason.
“Defensively, staying quick and being faster,” he said. “At this point in my career, it’s not like if I put 20 pounds on that it’s going to change me much. I just think getting that experience last year and continuing that into this year is going to help a lot.”
Rockies fans know LeMahieu is much like Nolan Arenado, a special talent on offense and defense. Part of the reason he has reached that level is his commitment to continually better himself from season to season.
“I pride myself on getting better every year and keep improving,” LeMahieu said. “That’s how I look at this year. It’s not like I went out last year and said, ‘I want to hit for a really high average.’ I wanted to get better. That’s how I look at this year as well.”
Getting better is something the Rockies have tried to do as a team in the offseason. LeMahieu said he has had “just some small talk,” with new manager Bud Black and new first baseman Ian Desmond. However, he thinks one of the biggest changes for the Rockies in 2017 will come on the mound.
“Our lineup is going to hit like it has in the last four or five years,” LeMahieu said. “We know it’s going to hit but the difference is going to be our pitching staff. We have five, six or seven starters who want to be out there. They want to compete and they want to win. I know everyone is excited to see those guys day in and day out.
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“I feel like we have a really good team. We just need to worry about ourselves and we’ll be just fine.”