Nelson returns to Colorado as member of Yankees

Pardon Chris Nelson if he takes a wrong turn inside the concrete
hallways of Coors Field, heading straight toward the home clubhouse
instead of veering left with his new team.

Hey, old routines are hard to break.

The New York Yankees infielder was a member of the Colorado
Rockies until nine days ago, when he was designated for assignment
to make room for prized prospect Nolan Arenado. Nelson was later
traded to the Yankees for a player to be named or cash.

No hurt feelings, though. The player nicknamed ”Nellie”
understands the situation.

He’s looking forward to his return as the Rockies welcome in the
Yankees – and their fleet of fans – for a three-game series
starting Tuesday night. All of Nelson’s belongings are still in the
Mile High City.

A lot of his friends, too.

”I enjoyed my time in Colorado,” Nelson said. ”My teammates.
Great fans. The mountain view is beautiful. Just a nice
place.”

As he makes himself at home with the Yankees, Nelson also is
searching for a new place to live. He’s been living out of a
suitcase until a real estate agent can find him something more
permanent. The former first-round pick of the Rockies was caught
off guard by the move, calling it ”very surprising.”

He’s quickly adapting, though, because there’s no other
choice.

A solid contact hitter with the Rockies, Nelson is still looking
for his first hit after going 0-for-7 to begin his career in the
famed New York pinstripes. This could be as good of place as any to
break out of his mini-slump, considering he’s a lifetime .316
hitter at Coors Field.

His buddies turned rivals – at least for the next few days – are
delighted that Nelson landed with the Yankees. After all, ”that
was always a team that he loved,” outfielder Dexter Fowler
said.

Nelson’s not alone in his childhood fondness for the Yankees.
The Bronx Bombers were also a favorite of first-year manager Walt
Weiss, who grew up about 30 miles from Yankees Stadium. His dad
loved the Yankees, so naturally he did as well.

”I think it’s always a pretty cool atmosphere when the Yankees
are in town,” Weiss said.

Like Nelson, Weiss will have some catching up to do. He and
Yankees manager Joe Girardi were teammates in Colorado for two
seasons in the mid-1990s.

”It’s been a little while, but it will be good to look across
there and see Joe,” Weiss said. ”He’s handled himself real well
in that situation.”

The last time the Yankees were in town was 2007, with the
Rockies sweeping the three-game series. The Yankees will certainly
have plenty of support – they always do, no matter where they go.
The three contests are close to sellouts, with a good portion
showing up decked out in New York garb.

”They’re the Yankees and they’ll always be the Yankees and
there is an aura that goes along with that,” Weiss said. ”That’s
OK. We’ll have a lot of purple pinstripes, too.”

These days, the Yankees are missing some of their star power,
with Alex Rodriguez (hip) and Derek Jeter (ankle) not expected back
until after All-Star break.

That’s a little bit of a letdown for Rockies infielder Jordan
Pacheco, who was hoping to meet Jeter. Pacheco grew up in New
Mexico and really didn’t follow a particular team, so much as
individual players. His favorites were Chipper Jones and Jeter.

”But there’s plenty of other guys on the Yankees (I can
meet),” Pacheco said. ”I’m glad I’ll get to see Chris Nelson. It
will be good seeing him again.”

Although the Yankees have been slowed by injuries, they’re still
hovering around first place in the AL East. That’s hardly a
surprise to Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, whose team took two of
three from the Rockies over the weekend.

”They (Yankees) pitch well. They pitch really well. That’s one
thing they don’t get enough credit for,” Maddon said. ”Their
starters are good. Their bullpen is very good, so that’s one
thing.

”I know they’re missing their big names, but they’ve got very
competent people in their stead. … You’re going to see something
different. You’re not going to see the normal marquee names, but
don’t be lulled into the sense that they can’t hit because the
names aren’t big enough. They can still hit but their pitching is
real good.”

Hiroki Kuroda (4-1) will be on the mound for the Yankees on
Tuesday, while the Rockies counter with Jorge De La Rosa (2-3). The
lefty is 2-0 as a starter against New York in his career and hasn’t
allowed a run in more than 11 innings.

”It’s going to be exciting to see (the Yankees) come into Coors
Field,” Fowler said. ”They’re a team with a lot of history.”

Nelson is returning to a team he has a lot of history with. The
ninth overall pick in the 2004 amateur draft, Nelson got off to a
slow start this season, hitting just .242. He was deemed expendable
once Arenado was ready.

”It was a surprise, but what can you do?” Nelson said. ”It’s
been crazy, but you’ve got to settle down.”

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York and AP freelancer
Dennis Georgatos contributed.

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