Brent Clevlen did not enjoy 2006 that much.
"I'm not sure what it was, I just went through one of those things where I just couldn't get through it."
The 'it' Clevlen is discussing was a season starting slump that saw him hit just .250 in April, .167 in May and .214 in June. For a player regularly mentioned among the top prospects in a very strong Detroit farm system, it was not only not what was expected, it wasn't supposed to happen. Consistency is a word Clevlen uses regularly when discussing his game.
More to the point, Clevlen talks about needing consistency.
"Finally, close to the end of the year I found something and it started clicking again. It was just one of those things I went through and it took a little while to figure it out."
There is a physical toll that ballplayers pay with their bodies over the course of a season, and when struggles like Clevlen's are factored in, the mental toll can be high as well. It has left this Tiger exhausted, but still excited.
"I only had two days off before I came down here [to the AFL], and I've been going basically since the middle of February until now, so its been a long year, but I'm hanging in there."
One of the reasons for Clevlen's resiliency is that he knows the club is showing a lot of patience, a lot of faith, in him by sending him to the AFL even after a season where he hit only .230.
"He's got tools, a real fluid swing," a scout who saw Clevlen several times this season said, "and it was hard to figure out what was going on. I'm still not sure anyone knows. He's playing better out here."
Clevlen's AFL numbers (.273/10 runs scored/eight RBI) are certainly more inspiring than his past season, but they are still short of the high expectations Clevlen's held since being drafted in the second round of the 2002 draft out of high school. Fatigue might be playing a part, but Clevlen's got making excuses, because he appreciates the Tigers patience with him, and understands what a vote of confidence it is to be sent to the AFL.
"The club wants me to come down here and get some more games in, some more at bats, and they still believe I can play, so they just want me to get some more work. I'm just down here trying to make my at bats more consistent, that's the main thing for me."
There's that word again, consistency. For a player who struck out more than once out of every three at bats this past season, it's not hard to translate what that means. Clevlen has realized the toll the long season can have on the body, and knows that fatigue could be playing a part in his struggles. He plans on addressing that this offseason.
"I'm going to take a couple weeks off after the AFL and then get back to lifting, running and getting stronger. I just want to make sure I'm ready to come into Spring Training in shape."
Tired, slumping, working. Not necessarily in that order. Has it been too long a year for the young outfielder?
"I'm hanging in there," he says with a laugh, "and I don't think three more weeks will be too much to ask for."