Restovich Ready To Rebound

After a solid start to the season in Columbus, Michael Restovich played in 15 games for the Nationals before being sent back to Columbus on May 8.  On Thursday, Restovich talked with CapitolDugout.com about his time at the big show, his outlook for the Nationals this season, and his relationship with fellow outfielder Kory Casto.

Although Restovich has already had to deal with a call-up and a demotion this season, he has taken the transition in stride.  This situation is nothing new for the right-handed outfielder—Restovich played at the big-league level with Minnesota, Colorado, and Pittsburgh in the past.  When comparing this stint with his previous experiences, Restovich said he was dissatisfied with his performance at the plate, but he enjoyed his time there.

"I didn't do as well as I would have liked, but team wise and things like that, it was pretty similar.  It's a good group of guys there," Restovich said. "We weren't winning as much as we would have liked, so that always makes things harder.  Overall, I'd say it was a pretty good experience, but obviously, you always want to do better."

In the latest of a series of ups and downs, Restovich went 3 for 4 on Thursday and had a game-winning, 2-RBI double in the bottom of the ninth as the Clippers rallied to an 8-7 victory over Charlotte.

Restovich's bat came out roaring during the first few weeks of the season, and that prompted Washington to call him up.  After collecting four hits in his first two games for the Nationals, Restovich went cold.  He said that he does not think that it was anything specific in his swing that led to his .143 average, but rather that it was merely a natural occurrence that everyone goes through from time to time.

"A little bit of it was just baseball being baseball: that just happens. I think also, that once that does happen, I'm probably putting some added pressure on myself to produce.  Everybody goes through those times when the balls don't fall, but I think that not putting too much pressure on myself is the key."

Restovich also added that the unwarranted pressure he put on himself may have altered his swing somewhat, albeit unintentionally.

"I think when you're pressuring yourself, then your swing starts to go too. You're over-swinging, or not seeing the ball as well, or swinging at bad pitches—things like that," Restovich said. "Most physical problems, at least in my situation, stem from the head, stem mentally.  I think that's true with most baseball players."

When it comes to dealing with switching teams and struggling at the major league level, Restovich is not alone.  Nationals fans have watched Kory Casto go through the same process this season.  Restovich said that he has talked to his fellow Clippers outfielder about adjusting to the situation.

"This spring, our lockers were next to each other, so we got to know each other pretty well.  And then we've been flip-flopping back and forth with each other, so I think we both have gone through the same thing.  I think for both of us, we just didn't do as well as we would have liked at the time," Restovich said.  "He has a good attitude about it.  I've gone through this a bunch with different teams, so I feel like I have a pretty good attitude about it too.  When you come down, don't sulk, just keep playing.  And if you keep the right attitude, hits will start coming, and you'll find yourself back up there."

At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Restovich is an intimidating hitter for opposing pitchers to face.  Normally, that size has translated into power numbers for the Minnesota native. Last year with Iowa, he posted 27 HR and 85 RBI, while batting .293.  Washington could not pass up on those numbers and signed the free agent to a minor league deal last November.

Unfortunately for Washington and Columbus, Restovich has not been able to muscle the ball like he did last year.  Through Thursday, Restovich had yet to put one over the fences this season.  However, the all-time leading scorer in basketball at his high school is hoping to rebound from this lack of production.

When asked about his discussions with hitting coach "Boots" Day, Restovich said that he hasn't focused specifically on hitting home runs. "If you're trying to hit them, then that's when you don't hit them.  It's more just about relaxing.  I'm a bigger guy—they'll come just by putting good swings on the ball.  That's really more of what I've been concentrating on: making good contact and hitting the ball hard, and in doing so, home runs will come."

Up in Washington, the Nationals are also waiting for those home runs and clutch hits to come around.  Although the offense has struggled during the first two months, Restovich said he is optimistic about how the rest of the season will play out.  Nevertheless, the team may have to play with a little more of a winning mentality.

"Overall, they've played better than their record.  They've been in a lot of those games. There are certain teams that have a winning tradition and go into the season with expectations of winning, and they find ways to win those close ones," Restovich said. "The Nationals were picked to lose 100 games before the season even started.  As much as you don't believe that stuff, it can weigh on you a little bit.  The next thing you know, you end up losing games 4-3 or 5-3, but they're turning that around a little bit.  They've won recently, and I think that they're going to come around and do better than most people think."

Restovich's 10 years of experience have molded him into a patient and mature hitter.  Yet, he is still only 28 years old and has a few parts of his game to improve in order to stay put in the big leagues and become an everyday player.

"The biggest thing for me is the consistency at the plate with my mechanics—basically not going into these slumps, and just staying consistent.  Secondly is my mental approach.  When I get up there, maybe not putting [the expectations] up too high.  Really, there isn't that much difference between this level and the major league level.  Sometimes, you put it in your head and think you have to do too much everyday."

For most minor leaguers, the pressure to perform is an inevitable part of the game. Restovich is hoping that he can eventually get to the point where that pressure is diminished and his spot on a major league roster is secure. 

"It's hard to do sometimes, especially in the role that Kory was in and that I've been in my whole career.  There's never been a year where they said ‘You're going to have a job. Don't worry about it, just go out and play.'  If that happens, then you relax and you know if you go 0 for 4, you're ok," Restovich said.  "It's tough when you feel like if you go 0 for 4, you're not going to play the next day. The big thing is just relaxing and telling yourself that whatever is going to happen is going to happen."

Can Washington finally be the club with which Restovich settles into a starting role?  Only time will tell, but he is ready to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way.

"A lot of times it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and when you get the chance, to make the best of it."

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