Adjustments Paid Off for Fuld

The game of baseball is constantly about making adjustments and for Sam Fuld, that certainly was the case in 2005. For a good part of the season, Fuld was one of the most reliable hitters not only for Class-A Peoria but throughout the Cubs' farm system in general. Things weren't always so peachy for the rookie center fielder, however.

Fuld began the year in a brief but not unnoticeable slump in the Midwest League. He hit .172 through his first 20 games before eventually catching on fire in June. Afterward, he stayed hot and managed to finish the year with an even .300 average. At one point, from June 16 to July 5, Fuld hit safely in 17 consecutive games.

Admittedly, the first two months of his professional debut season were a challenge for the 2004 10th round pick from Stanford University's elite baseball program. Fuld struggled atop the Chiefs' lineup early on, primarily because he wasn't getting a good read on the ball from a hitter's standpoint.

Changes had to be made.

"I made a couple of adjustments at the plate and fooled around with a few things in regards to my swing," noted Fuld, who missed playing in short-season action with the Cubs last year because of a torn labrum sustained on his throwing shoulder while at Stanford. "I soon started to feel more comfortable and began to re-gain my confidence."

One of the major adjustments was working with Chiefs hitting coach Ricardo Medina on where Fuld was standing in the batter's box.

"I didn't realize it at the time, but I was standing a little too far away from the plate," said Fuld. "Aside from that, I tried to become more smooth and ended up softening my hands a little more as the season went on. If there was anything I might have been doing subconsciously early on … I might have been too tense. I started to relax. Those were a couple of major changes I made."

Not only did Fuld go on to become one of the Chiefs' most solid hitters in 2005 (recording 43 extra base hits and finishing with a .377 OBP--second highest on the team behind - guess who? - Eric Patterson), he continued the tradition he set in college by keeping his walk totals high and his strikeouts down. The left-handed hitting Fuld drew 50 walks in 2005, striking out only 44 times.

While at Stanford, he drew more walks than strikeouts in three of his four seasons. He closed out his college career with a .332 batting average and 131 walks in 260 games.

"Especially for a guy at the top of the order, you want to have those kinds of numbers," Fuld said. "It's important to get on base however you can. Walks have always been a big part of my game. When trying to put the ball in play, there are also a lot of opportunities where just making contact is important, especially if it's moving a guy over. Those are some of the things you need to be able to do in the leadoff spot."

As for his shoulder, Fuld was on his way to Chicago for a routine check-up following the Chiefs' season finale on Monday. He spent a week on the disabled list in early May after re-aggravating that same shoulder in a game against Fort Wayne (May 5). Fuld recalled the infield dirt at O'Brien Field was muddy that evening, which caused him to get caught up and suffer a minor jam while going from first to third. By May 14, he was back in action.

Now that his season is over, Fuld has made no other immediate plans but to enjoy the time off and eventually get ready for 2006.

"I don't have any baseball plans at the moment and I am not going to any instructional leagues this year," he said. "Right now, I'm just going to take a couple of weeks off to relax and give my body a rest, then go through the whole off-season regime."

As for any goals next season, Fuld said, "I haven't really thought too much about it. My main focus has been on this year. I've tried to keep a short-term view of things and let everything unfold as it will."

"The main thing I've learned from this year is that it's a long season, and just because you start off slow doesn't mean you'll have a bad year," Fuld added. "In college, if you start off that way, it's going to be a tough climb back. But it's a long season up here and anything can happen if you get hot."


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