When spring training ended in March, infielder Nick Orlandos could only watch, helplessly, as his Wisconsin Timber Rattlers teammates left Arizona to begin the regular season. Shoulder stiffness forced him to participate in extended spring training. Now, Orlandos is back, healthy and better than ever.
With Wisconsin struggling to score runs, the arrival of Orlandos couldn't have come at a better time. The Timber Rattlers made a few roster moves in mid-June to make room for the 24-year-old infielder, hopeful that Orlandos could build on the success he had at Everett in 2003. They also wanted someone to provide a much-needed spark to ignite a dismal offense. More than a month later, it's safe to say that Orlandos hasn't disappointed.
Through July 17, the second baseman was batting a team-high .360 through 114 at bats in 28 games with Wisconsin. Coming into the season, Orlandos knew if he wanted to keep climbing up the minor league ladder that he'd need to play even better than he did in 2003.
"I think all lot of my success has been mental," said Orlandos, who went undrafted after college. "When it comes to game time your approach is pretty much mental. You want to do the same things every time."
While a member of the Everett AquaSox last year, Orlandos was named the team's Most Valuable Player. He hit .317, but that was in 69 games. This year, Orlandos has had to adapt to playing more games while maintaining the same consistently at the plate. He joined Eric Blakeley, Hyung Cho, Michael Nesbit, and Bryan LaHair as new additions to the team in June. Manager Steve Roadcap is constantly changing the lineup, but it doesn't seem to bother the soft-spoken Orlandos.
"It's not for me or any other players to (protest)," Orlandos said. "He's the coach and if we're in the lineup we like to go out there and give it our all. Of course, you'd like to see your name in the lineup everyday, but he's the coach."
Wisconsin's hitting has steadily improved from where it was in April and May. The team is currently ninth out of 14 teams in the Midwest League in team batting, with a .253 average. Orlandos admitted that the pitching he's faced in the Midwest League has certainly been a step-up from what he faced in the Northwest League. He says the pitchers he's battled with Wisconsin have more command of their pitches, using that to exploit the hitters' weaknesses. Unlike some hitters, Orlandos doesn't keep a book on opposing pitchers, but he uses pre-game scouting reports to prepare for a game.
"I could tell you all lot about a pitcher as far as whether or not he's got a good out-pitch," said Orlandos. "If he's a good strikeout guy than you know you're going to have a good battle."
Orlandos thinks batting coach Dana Williams is a good coach, particularly because he doesn't try to have his hitters change their approach if they're doing well. Once a hitter finds his groove, Williams tends to leave him alone and just let him play. Williams commented on how the new players have helped the team and why Orlandos is such a solid hitter.
"He gets inside the ball well and just finds a pitch he can hit," said Williams. "It may not be the prettiest thing you'll ever see, but he hits it."
While many hitters at the Single-A level have all lot to work on as far as improving offensively, Williams thinks Orlandos just needs to improve on his bunting and his on-base percentage. The batting coach believes Orlandos will continue to be a consistent hitter, because he rarely goes into a slump. He also projects Orlandos to stay in the lineup at the number two spot, because he's an unselfish hitter who's willing to sacrifice to move a base runner.
Since joining Wisconsin, Orlandos has racked up 11 RBI and has a .333 batting average with runners in scoring position. That's an area where the Rattlers are trying to improve upon, batting just .237 as a team in those crucial situations.
"The hitters are starting to use some of the things that they've learned," said Williams. "All the adjustments we've made as a staff in order to teach the hitters are starting to pay off."
Nick Orlandos had to wait his turn, but now he's making the most of his opportunity. And that is good for everybody.
Orlandos Continues to Provide a Spark
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