Lalli Excelling at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH — Blake Lalli has served up double the trouble for pitchers in the Florida State League by placing fifth in doubles with 18 so far this season.

Lalli's last five games for Class High-A Daytona have been impressive, resulting in five doubles and a .467 average in that span. Almost half of Lalli's hits in the last 10 games have been doubles.

"I just really try to drive the ball," says Lalli. "I'm a gap to gap player and the more I can get the ball to carry in the gaps, the better off I am getting on base."

Getting into scoring position hasn't just recently developed in this player's mantra. Over a quarter of Lalli's hits accrued at Gardner-Webb University were doubles.

In the summer of 2004, he lead the Vermont Mountaineers of the New England Collegiate Baseball League with a team-high 13 doubles.

And from 2002 to 2005 at Gardner Webb, his batting average increased over 100 points. His stats rose in others areas such as runs scored, doubles, and RBIs.

Lalli's jumps in batting average over time are impressive and have led the Cubs to believe his improvement can only go up. His average has jumped to .322 in Daytona after hitting .283 in Class-A Peoria at the start of the season.

"He's a great hitter and we love how he swings the bat," Cubs manager Jody Davis says of Lalli.

But the trouble for other teams doesn't end with Lalli's ability to hit for average and put it in the gap with his powerful but smooth left handed swing. Lalli is consistent at just about every position in the infield with his right-handed defensive skills.

Even though Lalli is listed in the Cubs official media guide as a catcher, he has been known to play first and third base, and has even been a solid presence on the mound in many instances throughout his baseball career.

"He plays first mostly but can catch for us some, too," said Davis. "He'll see most of his time with us at first and we'll put him in to DH for us, too."

But the important thing for Lalli is not what position he plays, just that he plays.

"The important thing is just to be out in the field," Lalli said. "It's not (about) where I am or where they put me. I'm out there, and that's all that matters."

Since arriving in Daytona, Lalli has pitched in two games for the Cubs in two separate innings, striking out three batters and facing six. He has still found himself mostly at first base, where he owns a .980 fielding percentage in 32 games.

"He's used in (pitching) situations where we're trying to save our bullpen," said Davis. "It's funny because he makes it look easy. He goes in there and closes out games better than some of these guys that are out of the bullpen."

His all-around skills make Lalli a prime player in the Florida State League, and he has more to offer than just his skillful baseball contributions because he is a team player with a humble personality.

In a tied game going into the bottom of the ninth inning on June 7 against Lakeland, Lalli had driven in two of the team's three runs and was removed for a right-handed bat in Ty Wright. Wright proceeded to strike out three times before getting a clutch infield single to win the game.

When asked if he was concerned about the decision by Davis before Wright's game-winning single, Lalli just laughed.

"Jody knows what he's doing, and Ty is a great hitter," opined Lalli. "I knew he would come through for us. It was only a matter of time. I wasn't worried."

Lalli provides a levelheaded approach to a game he loves. The Cubs only look for him to improve in the following weeks as he leads the team in batting average.

"He is the ultimate team guy. He'll do anything to help his team win," said Davis.

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