Christian Colon wanted it.
And that’s not always good.
“I wanted to hit the ball so well that I was starting to guide my swing,” Colon said.
He’d gone 1 for 16 over three games on Omaha’s last homestand, dropping his average to .215, about the time hitting coach Tommy Gregg offered some advice for Omaha’s middle infielder.
“He said, ‘Just swing like you always have,’” Colon said.
So he did.
“Maybe the numbers didn’t show it right away,” he said, “but I started swinging better, making harder outs.”
The 24-year-old from Puerto Rico is coming off a 5-for-18 road trip that included his third homer of the season for the Storm Chasers, who return to Werner Park for an eight-game homestand that starts with Thursday’s 6:35 p.m. game against Las Vegas.
He’s 8 for 31 (.258) over his last eight games to raise his average to .226.
“I know he’s not happy with his offense, but his swing is starting to come around,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said. “He can square the ball up and do the things he needs to offensively.”
The fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Cal State Fullerton, Colon signed for $2.75 million and made it to Omaha late last season.
But his first trip through Class AAA lasted just five games before a fluke injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
“I got here and I was feeling really good, really comfortable in just the handful of games I played,” Colon said. “But then one of those things that never happen just kind of happened to me.”
Swinging at a high fastball, the right-handed hitter made contact, and the ball deflected off his right cheek, breaking bones.
A titanium mesh fixed the cheek, he said. It’s still in there, but it’s not expected to need replacing.
“I don’t even feel it,” Colon said. “I’m very lucky, very blessed to be able to walk away from that situation and keep playing the game that I love. Because if it had been right on the eye … you never know.”
You also never know, he said, what might have happened last year if he had stayed healthy. After hitting .289, making the Texas League all-star team and getting promoted from Class AA Northwest Arkansas, Colon went 7 for 17 (a .412 average) with Omaha before being injured on Aug. 13.
The minor league season was in its final month, and big-league teams can expand their active roster beyond 25 players in September.
“I felt like I was swinging the bat well and September was coming around, so who knows?” he said. “But it’s something you can’t control. I went home, got healthy. The Royals allowed me to go play in Puerto Rico for winter ball, and I had a lot of fun and got some at-bats that I missed.”
The cheek injury was actually the second unusual mishap for Colon last season. Earlier, while playing for Northwest Arkansas, he’d missed six weeks with a broken toe.
“Trying to score a run and tried to run the catcher over, and he kind of moved away,” Colon said. “I just kind of kept flying and just stepped wrong and fractured my second toe.”
A shortstop for most of his career, Colon began playing second base more often on Omaha’s road trip after being stationed there for just one of the team’s first 29 games. He played in five games on the trip, starting three at second and two at short.
Johnny Giavotella has been Omaha’s second baseman for most of the last 2½ seasons, but the Kansas City organization wants Giavotella to play some third base to increase his versatility.
That in turn opens up second base for Colon to get some work. It’s the position that many scouts have regularly surmised would be the long-term home for the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder.
“I like second base a lot,” he said. “Personally, I think I could do very well over there. But it’s up to them.”
>> STORM TRACKING: Las Vegas, the New York Mets’ Class AAA affiliate, features top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, considered among the top 11 prospects in the minors by both Baseball America and mlb.com. But Wheeler, whose regular turn would have been Thursday or Friday, was flown to New York for tests after experiencing soreness in his right collarbone during his last start. … Another top prospect, catcher Travis d’Arnaud, has been out since April 17 with a broken foot. … Former Nebraska outfielder Andrew Brown has just returned after a short stint with the big-league club. Brown is hitting .359 with 27 RBIs in 26 games with the 51s.
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