Eugene Emeralds Notebook: New Additions

EUGENE, OR-- One signing is official, as Matt Clark practices with the Emeralds. Another signing is pending, as the Padres have locked up another pick. Swing mechanics and the science of it all is on display.

  • Matt Clark took part in his first full practice on Wednesday as a member of the Eugene Emeralds.

    "You can't miss him," one coach said when asked where he was on the field. "He is a big boy.

    The 12th-round pick out of this year's draft began the day with the normal fielding drills but it was when he got in the box that he put on a show.

    Clark's practice session was slightly different than the anyone else batting on the day – the ball just sounds slightly different coming off his bat.

    After belting 28 home runs in 65 games for LSU, Clark – a left-handed batter – hit several balls over the right field wall, and shows an advanced wood bat approach.

    "Effortless," hitting coach Eric Peyton noted. "Most big guys have so much energy that they put into it. His was effortless."

    Clark got a jump on his signing by working out with Double-A Frisco of the Texas League. His father, Terry, is the pitching coach in Frisco.

    "For the last three weeks, I have been working out with the team and doing everything but playing in the game," said Clark. "It has been great to get some work in and be ready to come out here and do what I have to do."

    Clark is not slated to appear in a game until the team travels on the road to Yakima after Thursday's game.

  • The most common mistake that young ball players from little league on up make is trying to swing as hard as possible.

    In the lower levels of the minors, prospects aren't immune to such thinking.

    The science of baseball, however, is simple. A ball traveling at 90 MPH meets a bat traveling in a different direction – the swing simply doesn't have to be hard to hit it a long way.

    Having that sink in isn't as easy as it sounds. There is a natural tendency to swing hard at every pitch. Doing so will, however, only lead to mechanical deficiencies. The head flies off the ball; the front shoulder flies open; the swing gets long to the ball, weight distribution is no longer balanced for the shift forward through the swing.

    "Slow load and explode," manager Greg Riddoch explained to Angel Mercado.

    Mercado is one of those players that has a tough time going at half speed to hit the ball. Hitting coach Tony Muser would say, "Just like you are playing pepper."

    "He tries to slow down but right now there is too much effort," Peyton said. "He is progressing."

    There is little doubting Mercado's power – he leads the team in home runs, but cutting his swing down will result in more consistent contact, especially on pitches he can handle. And that is the goal for the young slugger.

    The staff in Eugene is also trying to eliminate players who have a big step on the front foot. If a player is heavy stepping on the front foot, it can lead to a player's body weight transferred to the front side before they are ready to attack the ball with the bat.

    That saps power and makes a hitter susceptible to the outside breaking ball.

    "Like you are stepping on eggshells," Riddoch said. "We don't want to break those eggs."

  • Shortstop Cole Figueroa has left his team in the Cape Cod league and is expected to officially sign his contract with the San Diego Padres in the coming days.

    A Cape Cod League All-Star with the Harwich Mariners last year, Figueroa had been heating up as the Cardinals' starting shortstop. He was riding an eight-game hitting streak and led the team with 17 RBIs at the time of his release.

    Figueroa hit .340 with 20 home runs and 107 RBIs in two seasons at Florida and was named a Freshman All-American in 2007.

    It is unclear where he will be assigned for the rest of the season.

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