The 24-year old slugger was plagued by a thumb injury which cost him nearly two months of at-bats early in the season. Once he appeared to be getting into a rhythm at Triple-A Sacramento, he was summoned to the big leagues for a bench role throughout inter-league play.
"I'm trying to keep my head up, work on what I need to work on and keep my swing right," said Carter, who has struggled to find himself since returning to the River Cats on July 15th.
|Chris Carter was ranked as the A's top prospect coming into this season. b>|
"I didn't play a couple months of the season and I really didn't get into that stride I usually get into where I get hot and have good at-bats.
"It's frustrating now because here we are in mid-August and I'm still not really all the way there. But I'm working hard every day in the cage and on the field to get it back."
His streak of four consecutive minor-league seasons with at least 25 homers and 90 RBIs is an indicator of just what Carter's capable of when "right." In 727 career minor league games, Carter has hit 162 homers and has a 914 OPS.
Carter approaches his daily routine like a professional, and believes it's only a matter of time before he improves on his .240/.330/.470 line in Sacramento. In 48 Pacific Coast League games, Carter has 10 homers and 37 RBIs, but has struck out 55 times in 183 at-bats.
"I'm not really worried about [the strike-outs] at this point," he said. "It's more or less just having good at-bats and making sure I get what I need out of them, instead of trying to worry about striking out or not."
Pacific Coast League pitchers are feeding Carter a steady dose of "junk" on a nightly basis, as he's not seen as many fastballs as he did during his limited time in Oakland.
"The biggest difference is more guys just coming at me in the big leagues, instead of pitching around me," Carter said.
"Guys down here will throw off-speed early in the count and just keep going with it. Up there it was more like 'here it is and hit it if you can.' Down here guys are trying to survive and make you get yourself out. The other night [against Iowa's Dave Bush], I only saw maybe two or three straight balls all game. It was all sliders, curve balls and cutters."
Carter realizes he must do a better job hitting off-speed pitches to get another chance at sticking on a big-league roster.
His prior two stints with the A's have been underwhelming, albeit his second one didn't present him with many opportunities. He hit just .133 with a 321 OPS in 30 at-bats for Oakland this season. This after posting a line of .186/.256/.329 line over 24 big-league games in 2010.
The most recent big-league stop presented him with many obstacles.
"It's just trying to always be ready, because I'd never been in that role before," Carter said of being a bench player with the A's when he was first called up in June.
"We were in a National League situation and I was being used as a pinch-hitter. And then we went home and I'd play a game, not play a game, DH another game, not play a game, and then play first base. Not having a clear role was different for me, so I had to adjust to that.
"The message was more or less the same thing when I got sent down – keep working on your at-bats, defense, and make sure that everything is right when you come back up."
Defensively, Carter has almost exclusively played first base since returning from his injury. The A's had moved Carter, who has primarily been a corner infielder during his career, to the outfield at the end of last season.
"It kind of looks like I'll be playing [first base]," Carter said.
"I still work on the outfield when I get a chance in batting practice, and do some things out there. But I've mostly been playing first base since I got hurt, so that's where I'm going to be. Now it's just taking lots of ground balls, working on pick-offs, catching the ball from the infielders and staying low so you're ready for every ball hit to you."
If Carter can put it together offensively and defensively between now and September, he should be primed for another big-league call-up. And, he hopes, more of a full-time role with the A's.
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