Last season the team moved him up to High-A Lake Elsinore, placing him at third where he hit .273/.397/.436. Belnome is the classic Moneyball hitter with 49 extra-base hits, 16 of which were home runs and 102 walks. The downside is he also had some of the negatives associated with that caricature with 136 strikeouts in 600 plate appearances and 32 errors.
This year the organization moved the left-handed hitting Belnome, 23, back to second base and his defensive play has picked up. Additionally his strikeouts seem more under control and he is one the leaders in the Texas League in doubles and walks.
This year they moved you back to second where you were in Eugene after being at third last year in Lake Elsinore. Did you move around this much in college?
Vince Belnome: My first two years in college I played third and then for my junior year they moved me over to second, so that was a big switch; but now not as much.
Which one is the toughest for you?
Vince Belnome: I feel really comfortable defensively because that is what I really worked on in the off-season. I felt that I really needed to pick up that part of my game.
A few weeks ago I played first, and that was the first time in my life I ever played over there, and felt good there too.
At third you seem like a hockey goalie while second you have to cover so much ground.
Vince Belnome: That is exactly right. At third you can knock the ball down because you have more time to throw. At second its kind of more finesse because of the angles you have to deal with.
The infield must be better here than at Lake Elsinore. It seems that every year the third baseman for the Storm is always one of the leaders in the organization in errors because of how choppy it gets there.
Vince Belnome: A lot was on me, but it also played very quick and throw in the bad hops...and it was challenging [laughs]. I should have made those plays which was a big reason why I worked so hard in the off-season on my defense.
I took a few thousand ground balls a week. I could always hit but really needed to pick up my defense.
You showed some good power last year with the Storm. Have you been able to carry that over this season?
Vince Belnome: There were a few tweaks I needed to make with my swing but its coming.
When a middle infielder has some power its usually followed by the refrain that "he has just enough power to get in trouble." But you have always had some power right?
Vince Belnome: Kind of. I've always kind of thought of myself as a doubles guy going gap to gap. When they go out, they go out.
How has this park played for you so far?
Vince Belnome: Last night was the worse that I have seen for the wind. A few times it was blowing out, but most of the time it is in.
It's worse for right-handed hitters than left correct?
Vince Belnome:I think its worse for lefties that pull. As a right-hander if you pull it you can have some success if you get it up and into the wind. You do that as a lefty and its not going anywhere.
Offensively what is the biggest thing you are trying to work on this year? We talked a little about this last year how similar to your old college teammate Jedd Gyorko. You guys both take your walks, like your extra-base hits and extremely picky at the plate.
Vince Belnome: Jedd and I had some good times in college. The big things I want to work on is to cut down on my strikeouts. I had a lot of RBI opportunities last year and could have been much more. I just wasn't in the right mind set to drive in those runs.
You are a patient hitter who sees quite a few pitches so I am assuming that most of your strikeouts were called rather than swinging?
Vince Belnome: A lot of them. I feel like I have a pretty good idea of a strike zone, but I don't argue with the umpire. He is going to call what he wants to call even if I don't feel like it was a strike.
I've always wondered with players like yourself if the game gets easier for you in some ways as you move up? Obviously the competition is better but the umpiring also improves so for someone with a good eye you end up hitting in better counts?
Vince Belnome: That was the biggest thing in the first series that we had that I noticed. There were a few pitches that were around four inches off of the plate and I took it and they called it a ball. In the past, in lower leagues, that would have been a strike.
I think that is what the strike zone should be. Hitting is hard enough, the pitchers don't need any more advantages.
How do you deal with that? You have a good idea of the strike zone and try to hit and drive certain pitches. If you have an umpire that is calling balls all over the place and you start to go outside your zone you could screw yourself up for the next week.
Vince Belnome: That is exactly right. You don't want to get out of your approach but when the pitcher leaves the ball over the plate you need to take advantage of that pitch. You have to be able to hit that pitch.
That is what I have really been working on before the games, not to miss my pitch. For the most part this year the umpires have been pretty good.