Concepcion satisfied with '06 goals

Upon being promoted to the Binghamton Mets, Ambiorix Concepcion thought of polished pitchers and their improved abilities, dropping nasty breaking balls into the strike zone.

A year ago, those curveballs and sliders might have bothered the 24-year-old outfielder more. But a Florida State League campaign had adequately prepared Concepcion for the challenge of his first taste of Double-A.

Bringing what he described as an "improved approach" to his at-bats, Concepcion followed an All-Star first half in the Florida State League by batting .261 in 63 games for Binghamton, showing enough in the Eastern League to continue impressing as one of the Mets' better position playing prospects.

"I feel better with breaking balls," Concepcion said. "I know I can hit the fastball. I knew I had to improve (hitting breaking balls), and I think I'm a little bit better this year.

"At the end of the year, you see my numbers and you see from day-to-day how the pitchers pitch you a little differently. I got a lot of base hits with two strikes."

A centerfielder for Gary Carter's St. Lucie Mets club, Concepcion batted .287 with 21 doubles, two triples and one home run in 71 games.

Promoted to Binghamton in late June after outfielder Bobby Malek went down with a broken wrist, Concepcion switched to right field for Juan Samuel's club, playing alongside top minor league prospect Carlos Gomez.

Concepcion found the more experienced pitchers he expected, but he also found ways to chalk up hits. Waiting back on pitches, particularly deep in the count, Concepcion managed 57 hits (15 for extra bases) in his 218 Double-A at-bats, hitting to the opposite field more often and leaving promising thoughts for a follow-up campaign.

"Here I'm learning a lot about getting my swing straight, hitting my pitch," Concepcion said. "It's something I have to keep improving all the time and see what's going on next year."

The year was something of a rebound year for Concepcion, who struggled early in his first long-season experience with the Hagerstown (A) Suns of the South Atlantic League. A product of the Dominican Republic, Concepcion had trouble adjusting to colder weather in the northeast United States, batting just .165 in 79 April at-bats.

He was spared that chill in 2006, instead playing the month under increasingly warm Florida conditions, but fully expects to be prepared for what Binghamton in April might offer.

"It's something I will have to learn, because I want to play in the big leagues," Concepcion said. "It's not warm at the beginning of the season, so I have to know that to start off next year."

Concepcion said that coming into 2006, he set two goals – to be named an All-Star and to finish the year at Binghamton. Having accomplished those, he said he'll return to the Dominican Republic and play winter ball, already holding an idea of how he'd like 2007 to end.

"It's still early, but one of my goals for next year is to be in the big leagues," Concepcion said. "I don't care where I start.

"I know by the end of the year I want to be in the majors. I'm going to keep working hard and go into the offseason with that thought."

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