Happy Days May Be Here For Ryan Carter

Ryan Carter was perplexed. No, make that rather vexed. He thought he'd convinced the coaches that he could deliver the power with his performance in a half-season at Columbus, yet they were now altering things. To him, it was thoroughly confusing.

Carter had always hit out of a rather exaggerated crouch with his legs far apart. He'd taken that stance to Columbus and, in 60 games, had crushed 14 homers plus 13 doubles with a triple thrown in. But, now, in the Instructional League, they asked him to get upright. You'll hit with more power, they told him.

But he didn't. Instead, he found himself lunging at the ball, striking out more than he ever had and not hitting much of anything with any degree of gusto. It was further frustration in a couple of years that he'd felt that way often.

There was the elbow injury that required surgery in 2004, one that meant he spent that whole season in rehab. That was healed by this spring, yet he was confined to the extended camp. When he wondered where he would be sent, they mentioned Ogden. Ogden! Again? Why? He'd hit .313 there before the injury. It was more than time to move up, he felt. After all, he'd been in the system since 2001 when he was drafted in the eighth round but in that time had never played a game above the rookie level.

At last, the decision was made to send him to Columbus where he responded in the noted manner. Still, they felt change was necessary but you couldn't blame him for wondering about this.

"You know, Andruw Jones went into a crouch to get more power but they want me to go the other way?" he said. And finally, he went in and asked the ageless question, "If it isn't broke, why are we fixing it?"

A compromise was decided upon. He could bend his knees again until it was more comfortable but he was to get his stance more closed. It was with this approach that he was using when he left camp just before the last couple of days in order to get home to Fort Myers, across the state, which was about to be hit head-on by Hurricane Wilma.

It is Carter's hope that he's assigned to Vero Beach in 2006. Jacksonville seems unrealistic, at least for now, and Vero would be nice. His wife is from there, her family is comprised of a number of ardent supports of his game so the atmosphere would be pleasant.

And Ryan Carter figures he has more pleasant days ahead. He showed he could run better than most when he finished second to Trayvon Robinson in the finals of the camp 60-yard dash. If he gets more comfortable at the plate and keeps hitting the long ball, well, who could ask for more?