Lutz Bouncing Back

Zach Lutz, Brooklyn's second-year third baseman, is back on the diamond after missing all of his rookie season with a foot injury. Armed with a quality bat and strong defensive skills, he is poised to stay healthy and improve his game.

Zach Lutz's name on the Brooklyn Cyclones' roster is inconspicuous next to the names of his teammates, like Ike Davis and Reese Havens, both who were first round draft picks this year.

Entering play Wednesday, however, the .333 batting average the 22-year-old third baseman carries was not only best on the Cyclones, but 13th best in the New York-Penn League.

It's been an impressive "debut" season for the right-handed Lutz, albeit in a limited number of at-bats compared to the company he keeps. Only two other of the league's top 13 hitters has played in as few games as Lutz, at 21, and Lutz's total number of at-bats, 66, is the fewest on the list.

Lutz has seen less time so far this season than might be expected partly because of the necessary rotation minor league teams employ to get everyone in the lineup: Eric Campbell sees time at third base as well, and Lutz has been hampered by bumps and bruises that have cut into his playing time.

But after the way Lutz's 2007 went, in which he collected just two at-bats, this year was supposed to truly be his debut. Yet, most of Lutz's off-days this season have been born out of his and the organization's desire to play things safe.

"I ask every day 'How do you feel, how do you feel?'" says Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo. "Because if he feels a little bit tender, I have to give a day off."

Lutz was the Mets' fifth round draft pick in 2007 out of Alvernia College in Pennsylvania, where he earned a Division III National Player of the Year Award and two Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Baseball Player of the Year Awards. He was assigned to Brooklyn to start his career.

Alfonzo, the manager of the Cyclones last year as well, made out the lineup card on Opening Day last June and had Lutz slotted as the team's starting third baseman.

In the top of the first inning, Lutz's season was effectively over. He broke the navicular bone in the top of his right foot as he moved toward the line to make a backhand play. He left the game after his second at-bat.

Lutz had screws placed in his foot, and had to spend six months on crutches with a protective boot. "It was tough, I never really had a serious injury like that before," Lutz says.

"I know when we signed this kid that he had a big bat, he can hit a little bit, and he got hurt in the first game," Alfonzo recalls. "But you're disappointed for a little while but you have to forget about it, nothing you can do about it."

Forget about it, Lutz probably won't ever be able to, but work as hard as possible to come back strong? That he certainly did.

Though he could not workout his lower body, Lutz worked out his upper body daily and was placed on a careful nutrition plan. He stayed at home in Mohnton, Pa. for the entire time he was on crutches, until Feb. 1, when he reported to spring training.

Besides a week of time in extended spring training before reporting to Brooklyn this year, Lutz has still seen very little game action. Nonetheless, the early returns have been positive, something he credits to all that off-season work.

"Everything happened in the off-season," Lutz says. "I just worked my butt off to get back. I'm seeing the ball well and everything feels good."

"He's worked his tail off just to get himself healthy and get himself back to where he's able to play now," says Mets minor league infield coordinator Kevin Morgan. "He's still going to continue to get himself to where he needs to be, but he's doing a real good job, moving pretty well—I think as well as to be expected—and he's making all the plays."

Lutz hit his first career homer on July 4, a two-run shot to center in the fourth inning of Brooklyn's 9-2 win over the host Williamsport Crosscutters in Williamsport, Pa. Bouncing around in the middle of the lineup, from the three-hole to the sixth spot, Lutz has walked more times (14) than he's struck out (11). He also has three multi-hit games in his last ten.

But because Lutz is, in some way, just starting out, he's still learning about himself as a player, without specific performance goals.

"Just staying healthy, that's the main thing right now," Lutz says. "My strengths and weaknesses, I don't really know right now because I haven't played for a year."

To preserve his health, Lutz missed four games from June 22-25 after a scare on June 21 in Aberdeen, Md. Batting in the eighth against the Aberdeen IronBirds, Lutz fouled a pitch off and rolled his ankle, and Alfonzo wasn't taking any chances.

"I got scared," Lutz says. "Talked to Fonzie and he was scared too and he was just like, 'We've got to take it day by day ... Every day it's in my mind. You know, I just don't want to go through that again."

"It's usually just in practice I'll think about it," Lutz adds. "But during the game I really don't think about it all."

Lutz will only be under the radar for a little while longer if he continues to play the way he has. He finished as Alvernia's career leader in average, at .445. Now as a pro, although could be considered to be a year behind having missed last season, he feels no pressure to make up for any lost time.

"I don't put any pressure on myself," Lutz says. "I just go out there every night and work hard."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nZach Lutz's name on the Brooklyn Cyclones' roster is inconspicuous next to the names of his teammates, like Ike Davis and Reese Havens, both who were first round draft picks this year.
\r\n
\r\nEntering play Wednesday, however, the .333 batting average the 22-year-old third baseman carries was not only best on the Cyclones, but 13th best in the New York-Penn League.
\r\n
\r\nIt's been an impressive \"debut\" season for the right-handed Lutz, albeit in a limited number of at-bats compared to the company he keeps. Only two other of the league's top 13 hitters has played in as few games as Lutz, at 21, and Lutz's total number of at-bats, 66, is the fewest on the list.
\r\n
\r\nLutz has seen less time so far this season than might be expected partly because of the necessary rotation minor league teams employ to get everyone in the lineup: Eric Campbell sees time at third base as well, and Lutz has been hampered by bumps and bruises that have cut into his playing time.
\r\n
\r\nBut after the way Lutz's 2007 went, in which he collected just two at-bats, this year was supposed to truly be his debut. Yet, most of Lutz's off-days this season have been born out of his and the organization's desire to play things safe.
\r\n
\r\n\"I ask every day 'How do you feel, how do you feel?'\" says Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo. \"Because if he feels a little bit tender, I have to give a day off.\"
\r\n
\r\nLutz was the Mets' fifth round draft pick in 2007 out of Alvernia College in Pennsylvania, where he earned a Division III National Player of the Year Award and two Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Baseball Player of the Year Awards. He was assigned to Brooklyn to start his career.
\r\n
\r\nAlfonzo, the manager of the Cyclones last year as well, made out the lineup card on Opening Day last June and had Lutz slotted as the team's starting third baseman.
\r\n
\r\nIn the top of the first inning, Lutz's season was effectively over. He broke the navicular bone in the top of his right foot as he moved toward the line to make a backhand play. He left the game after his second at-bat.
\r\n
\r\nLutz had screws placed in his foot, and had to spend six months on crutches with a protective boot.\r\n\"It was tough, I never really had a serious injury like that before,\" Lutz says.
\r\n
\r\n\"I know when we signed this kid that he had a big bat, he can hit a little bit, and he got hurt in the first game,\" Alfonzo recalls. \"But you're disappointed for a little while but you have to forget about it, nothing you can do about it.\"
\r\n
\r\nForget about it, Lutz probably won't ever be able to, but work as hard as possible to come back strong? That he certainly did.
\r\n
\r\nThough he could not workout his lower body, Lutz worked out his upper body daily and was placed on a careful nutrition plan. He stayed at home in Mohnton, Pa. for the entire time he was on crutches, until Feb. 1, when he reported to spring training.
\r\n
\r\nBesides a week of time in extended spring training before reporting to Brooklyn this year, Lutz has still seen very little game action. Nonetheless, the early returns have been positive, something he credits to all that off-season work.
\r\n
\r\n\"Everything happened in the off-season,\" Lutz says. \"I just worked my butt off to get back. I'm seeing the ball well and everything feels good.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"He's worked his tail off just to get himself healthy and get himself back to where he's able to play now,\" says Mets minor league infield coordinator Kevin Morgan. \"He's still going to continue to get himself to where he needs to be, but he's doing a real good job, moving pretty well—I think as well as to be expected—and he's making all the plays.\"
\r\n
\r\nLutz hit his first career homer on July 4, a two-run shot to center in the fourth inning of Brooklyn's 9-2 win over the host Williamsport Crosscutters in Williamsport, Pa. Bouncing around in the middle of the lineup, from the three-hole to the sixth spot, Lutz has walked more times (14) than he's struck out (11). He also has three multi-hit games in his last ten.
\r\n
\r\nBut because Lutz is, in some way, just starting out, he's still learning about himself as a player, without specific performance goals.
\r\n
\r\n\"Just staying healthy, that's the main thing right now,\" Lutz says. \"My strengths and weaknesses, I don't really know right now because I haven't played for a year.\"
\r\n
\r\nTo preserve his health, Lutz missed four games from June 22-25 after a scare on June 21 in Aberdeen, Md. Batting in the eighth against the Aberdeen IronBirds, Lutz fouled a pitch off and rolled his ankle, and Alfonzo wasn't taking any chances.
\r\n
\r\n\"I got scared,\" Lutz says. \"Talked to Fonzie and he was scared too and he was just like, 'We've got to take it day by day ... Every day it's in my mind. You know, I just don't want to go through that again.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"It's usually just in practice I'll think about it,\" Lutz adds. \"But during the game I really don't think about it all.\"
\r\n
\r\nLutz will only be under the radar for a little while longer if he continues to play the way he has. \r\nHe finished as Alvernia's career leader in average, at .445. Now as a pro, although could be considered to be a year behind having missed last season, he feels no pressure to make up for any lost time.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't put any pressure on myself,\" Lutz says. \"I just go out there every night and work hard.\"
\r\n
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