More Playing Time Equals Results For Caldwell

Auburn sophomore catcher Tony Caldwell talks about his improved play in 2009.

Auburn, Ala.--Coming into the season as more than likely a back up to senior Ryan Jenkins, sophomore catcher Tony Caldwell has more than made up for his increased playing time in 2009 to become one of Auburn's most productive hitters this season.

With Jenkins out all of the season to this point because of a broken bone in his hand, Caldwell went from reserve catcher to full-time as a sophomore and has responded in a big way. Coach John Pawlowski said it's not only what Caldwell has done at the plate, but also his defense that has made a huge impact on Auburn's season to this point.

"Right now he's seeing the ball as well as anybody on the team," Pawlowski said. "He has worked extremely hard and taken advantage of every opportunity he's had. Going into the season he was fighting hard with Ryan Jenkins and Caleb Bowen for the starting job. Unfortunately for Jenks he went down and it came down to a two-man battle and he won the job. He's gotten better and better.

"You can look at his offensive numbers and see how those have risen, but one of the biggest things is how he's handled our pitching staff. A lot of times that goes unnoticed, but I think he's really matured back there."

Caldwell's offensive numbers speak for themselves. Hitting .270 last season in 63 at-bats with no home runs and 10 RBI, Caldwell has been on fire recently to raise his average to .327 heading into this weekend. He's also added eight home runs with six of them coming in the last 14 games. Caldwell says despite his hot hitting he's trying to stay as grounded as possible.

"I really don't notice it," Caldwell says. "I just come out and try to have fun. I try not to think up there. It's just happening. Everything is going my way I guess.

"It's a good relief to come out and get a pair of hits every day," he adds. "It's good to just swing the bat."

Caldwell says perhaps the biggest impact on his season to this point has been the ability to play every day. Not having to worry about a pinch hit appearance or whether he was going to play at all, he says now he can concentrate knowing he's got more than once chance to make something happen.

"It's a lot easier when you're in the lineup every day," Caldwell says. "That has been huge for me. It plays into it big time. You get to see so many pitches every day and you can have four or five at-bats a day. Coming off the bench is tough."

Maturity level and being in the lineup have had something to do with Caldwell's success, but the biggest reason may be new offensive coaches Matt Heath and Jeff Duncan. With a good eye for the swing and how to approach at-bats, Caldwell says getting instruction from them since they arrived has made a big difference in his hitting as well as that of the entire team.

"I still have the mentality that I'm going to go to war with the pitcher," Caldwell says. "They have just helped my swing so much. At the beginning of the year I wasn't feeling it. I had a couple of mechanical problems. Now I just get in the box and let it happen."

Caldwell and the Tigers will face the Florida Gators this weekend in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the weekend are 6 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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