Rodriguez Picking It Up

ST. LUCIE, FL – Slow starts are not uncommon in baseball. But there are slow starts and then there are "slow" starts. St. Lucie Mets third baseman Aderlin Rodriguez was experiencing the latter, posting a lowly .186 batting average in the month of April. But despite the grim beginning to his second season with the ballclub, he kept working hard and was able to deliver a great performance in May.

"I didn't start the season the way I was expecting it to start," Rodriguez said by way of a teammate translating. "But I am very confident because of the improvement that I have shown within the last month and I think things are going into the right direction.

"Right now, it feels like my approach at the plate is way better than it was at the beginning of the season and my defense has been better than any other year throughout the whole year."

His improved approach has upped Rodriguez' batting average to .343 in May while his OPS has soared to .953 for the month. The 6-foot-3 power hitter is second on the team with 38 RBIs and is second in home runs with nine.

Mets hitting coach Benny Distefano thinks that the key to Rodriguez' drastic turnaround was the fact that the youngster didn't panic.

"He started off slow and [the] first 30-40 at-bats it snowballed, he was putting a little too much pressure on himself, but the good thing about it: He never stopped working and he always went about his business the right way and it's turned around."

Rodriguez' dedication and hard work first showed in the offseason when he lost around 30 pounds and thus improved his agility.

"I lost all that weight," Rodriguez said. "But I went to the gym every single day, worked out. So I feel stronger right now. I feel like my mobility [on] the bases, on the defensive side of the ball, has helped me with the defensive aspect. So I've improved in that area too."

But while the third baseman has undoubtedly made great strides, there is still plenty of work to be done, most notably improving his range in the field and his plate discipline.

"You got to have adequate range and be consistent enough defensively to hold the position down," Distefano explained. "But it all comes down to being consistent at the plate. So pitch selection is part of it, because the higher you go up, pitchers have better command and will set you up a little bit more often so you have to differentiate between balls and strikes."

Nonetheless, Rodriguez has already shown improvement in that area of his game. He is sporting a strikeout rate of 16.7%, the second-lowest of his career, which is a testament to his improved patience in the batter's box.

Meanwhile, his hitting coach is confident that if the third baseman can just continue to trust his ability, he could be well on his way to a successful career in the big leagues.

"If development keeps coming and it clicks for him, he could be a type of hitter that carries a ballclub," Distefano said. "He could be a dominant hitter, you know, hit 30 home runs in the big leagues, got that type of power.

"When balls are in the zone he doesn't swing and miss a lot, so he has good eye-hand coordination. He could carry a ballclub and he has that type of potential, but again for any hitter it comes down to being consistent."

For now though, Rodriguez is focused on the present.

"You have to try to improve every aspect of the game little by little. But in the end I'm not going to pay too much attention to moving up. If I do the things that I need to do, eventually I'm going to move up.

"So right now I'm just focusing on helping the team get better, helping to get a ‘W' every day and just trying to work on the little things that I need to improve," Rodriguez concluded.

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