The pounds are gone, but it's the same Nolan Arenado
inside that sleeker body and Tulsa Drillers uniform.
The Colorado Rockies' infield prospect is coming off a banner 2011 with the Class A Advanced Modesto Nuts, where he led the Minor Leagues with 122 RBIs. The numbers, as well as some improved defense at third base, were the result of playing am injury-free full season and dropping some weight.
"It's been a focus ever since I started," Arenado said of his defense. "I mean, I've got people telling me, 'You've got to get in shape and you've got to work on your infield or we're going to move you.' I took it to heart. I definitely tried to improve myself, and I believe I have, and I believe I'm a Major League third baseman."
The 6-foot-1 Arenado dropped 20 pounds before last season, getting down to 205 while adding range at third to go with his good hands. With Colorado somewhat unsettled at the third base spot, he thinks he can take his place with the Rockies soon.
"I believe I have a good chance if I do what I've got to do here," Arenado said.
Arenado played 92 games at Class A Asheville in 2010 and hit .308. But after recovering from a groin injury and losing the weight, he showed himself to be a capable producer during a full season as he almost doubled his RBI total at Modesto in 2011.
Arenado isn't shy about taking pride in his 122 RBIs, but he shares the credit.
"It's a great accomplishment," he said. "It was really nice to do that and our team did well, we played well and it was good to have the team that we had: good players in front of me to get on base and help me get those RBIs. So if it wasn't for them, I definitely wouldn't have been there."
Arenado entered this week hitting .283 and was second on the team with 14 RBIs as Tulsa sat six games ahead of Northwest Arkansas in first place in the Texas League North. Arenado attributed his team's strong start more to the team's 3.14 ERA than the team's .246 batting average but said the Drillers are poised to come to life at the plate.
"We're a great team, and honestly we haven't been doing as good as we can," he said. "We're not hitting the ball like we should. And that shows a lot of our team -- our pitching staff and defense is great."
Arenado, drafted in the second round out of El Toro (Calif.) High School in 2009, carries a passion for baseball and admitted he has been counseled at times to rein in his emotions.
"They told me, 'We like you playing with emotion, but control the emotion,'" said Arenado, who turned 21 on April 16. "I understand that completely, and I know I should, but it's just the fire in me. I expect a lot of myself, and I'm working on it and I'm getting better at it.
"I care more than anyone. I want to help this team win, and obviously I want to get to the Major Leagues and help them out too."
Prospect powwow: San Antonio lefty Robbie Erlin had the upper hand in a showdown with left-handed Corpus Christi slugger Jonathan Singleton in San Antonio's 10-0 victory Sunday. Ervin, a top 10 San Diego Padres prospect, struck out Singleton, the Houston Astros' top prospect, twice and walked him once while earning his first victory of the year.
Cold shoulder: Among the player transactions involving the Arkansas Travelers on Sunday was one that was unfortunately familiar. Second baseman Ryan Mount, in his fourth stint with Arkansas and yet to play a full season because of injuries, was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury after missing 10 games.
Power alley: San Antonio's Wolff Municipal Stadium, opened in 1994 and the oldest park in the league, has a well-earned reputation as a pitcher's haven. Though they are hitting just .235 at home, the Missions have pounded a league-best 40 homers, hitting 19 at the Wolff after hitting 159 overall and finishing third in the category last year.