The first eight weeks of the Midwest League definitely put Beloit middle infielder Trace Loehr to the test, but Oakland’s sixth-round selection in the 2014 draft is finally start to find his comfort zone.
Finally getting his first taste of full-season ball this year. Loehr had his moments during the opening stretch to the season, but fell into a nasty slump in late-April and the entire month of May. A groin injury suffered in Burlington on April 23rd that landed him on the seven-day disabled list also didn’t help matters.
It all added up to a stretch that the 21-year-old would just as soon forget.
“I was hitting the ball well early in the season, so I started thinking I could hit every single pitch,” said Loehr, who saw his batting average dip to a season-low .158 back on May 18th. “I started failing more and not hitting to my capability, because I was swinging at pitches I couldn’t hit.
“(The injury) also played into it quite a bit, because it was just added extra to what was going on. I wasn’t playing as well as I should have and making mental mistakes. Adding a physical aspect to baseball made it that much worse.”
With the groin injury in the rearview mirror and Loehr settling into a routine in the Midwest League, he’s starting to see the results he has longed for since the beginning of the season.
Loehr has hit safely in five of six games during the month of June, compiling a slash line of .276/.276/.379 during the stretch of 29 at-bats. It’s also enabled him to raise his season batting line to near the Mendoza line (.199/.228/.269).
“Right now I’m just trying to keep the same approach and not worry about the results,” he said. “Early in the season I was pretty result-based on everything and that didn’t turn into such a good thing to worry about. I wasn’t playing to my capability.
“Now I’m really just focusing on the simple things. I’m playing team baseball, trying to get on base, work counts and hitting my pitches. Early in the season I was late on pitches and then had fallen behind in counts, and good luck from there.”
Being given a chance by the A’s organization to figure things out at the full-season level was also a relief for Loehr, who remained with the Snappers despite his struggles.
“I definitely feel a little more comfortable, but I don’t want to get too comfortable because that’s when stuff starts hitting the fan,” he said. “I’m just trying to come out here and play more game. I need to have more confidence than I did earlier in the season and play my game. There aren’t too many pitchers out here than can beat me; I mainly just beat myself.”
As he’s started getting multiple looks at teams around the MWL Western Division, Loehr has also started to learn a few things about the opposition.
“The pitchers here really try to command their fastball and that’s what they’re going to try to go ahead with,” Loehr said. “You’re not seeing a lot of guys that will throw three curveballs or changeups in a row in this league. You need to get ahead in the count while being ready for your pitch. They’re going to give it to you, so stay ready and be aggressive.”
While Loehr has gained a level of comfort, he knows he can’t settle in too much given the competition within the A’s organization at the middle infield positions.
“We definitely have a lot of great prospects in our organization,” he said. “I’m not really trying to do too much. I know that if I play my game, good things are going to happen. I can’t be too worried about what someone is doing in High-A or Double-A, because then I’m not worried about what I’m doing.”
Loehr hopes to continue his recent run of games and put together a solid second half in hopes of getting a future call-up to High-A Stockton.