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Nieves thriving with regular starts for D-backs

Nieves thriving with regular starts for D-backs

Nieves thriving with regular starts for D-backs

PHOENIX -- Although he did it occasionally in the Minors, before Miguel Montero went down with a back injury on July 23, D-backs catcher Wil Nieves hadn't started consecutive games in the Majors since 2010, when he was the backup for Ivan Rodriguez in Washington.

So to say the past two weeks have been an adjustment for the veteran 35-year-old would be a bit of an understatement. In the 14 games since Montero was initially injured, Nieves has started 11 times, including Wednesday night against the Rays.

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The sudden increase in playing time has been a challenge for the career backup, but it's also something he has been preparing for all year.

"I work hard even when I'm not playing, so I readied myself for it if something like this ever happened," Nieves said. "It all goes back to the work you put in in the offseason, Spring Training and during the season."

It's hard to argue with his results so far. Before this stretch, Nieves was batting .357 in limited action. Now, in the last 42 at-bats entering Wednesday, the backstop has managed to keep up that stellar pace, hitting .381.

"I knew I could do it, I've been behind someone my whole career, but I always knew that if something happened, I could do it on a daily basis," he said. "It's just about getting good habits so that whenever I'm in the game, it's muscle memory. I don't think about mechanics, I think about seeing the ball and hitting it. That's what happens when you practice the right way."

As for how his body is holding up, Nieves said that while he sometimes feels the effects of catching so many games in a row, the discomfort never lasts long.

"I feel good, I feel awesome," he said. "After the game or maybe the next day I feel a little bit tired, but as soon as the game starts, the adrenaline kicks in and all the pain goes away. I love playing this game and every time I'm in the lineup, I give it 100 percent."

Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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