Slade Heathcott, who is arguably the most athletic player the Yankees possess in their organization, has been on an emotional roller coaster this season. As he started his 2011 campaign back in Charleston where he played in 2010, he got off to a very fast and impressive start that got the attention of many.
Coming off shoulder surgery six months prior to the start of the season, he felt thankful to be healthy.
"I started out and I was feeling good," Heathcott said. "I had shoulder surgery six months prior and I was going well. Everything went well for the first month and half and I tried going out every day not trying to think of the highs and lows by finding an equal balance."
With success coming Heathcott's way in the beginning of the season in Charleston, he started to feel pain again in his throwing shoulder. His numbers started to decrease as his approach to the plate and follow through was struggling. Heathcott tried not to blame his recent struggles to his injury, but understands it was bothering him at the dish.
"There was a mixture of several things," Heathcott said when asked about his recent struggles. "Being mentally strong enough to know what my approach needs to be and not getting away from it was a problem, but not to make any excuses but I had some shoulder pain following through on my swing but it was a combination of some little things.
"You know, I just have to find out how to fix it and hopefully I can here in Tampa."
After half the season at Charleston was complete, Heathcott batted .271 with 57 hits in his 210 at-bats; he was promoted to high-A Tampa where he has played in one game so far.
As Heathcott was informed about his promotion, the news was a bit surprising for him.
"In the beginning of the year I figured I would be promoted, but later in the season I didn't think I was going to be able to due to the injury and I knew I was going to do on the DL," Heathcott said. "It was a nice surprise that they decided to bring me up."
One part of his game that has been struggling as of late has been the amount of time Heathcott has been walking back to the dugout after being called out on strikes. He struck out 57 times in Charleston and he doesn't blame the amount of strikeouts on his amount of pitches he is taking or him getting fooled at the plate.
He says the amount of strikeouts is due to when he starts struggling at the plate whether it is from shoulder pain or not, not getting the bat through the zone, he doesn't really know, but it's something he says he needs to work on.
With complications coming from all different directions for Heathcott in Charleston, whether it was from injuries or just struggles at the plate, he realizes what is giving him problems at the plate. He stated that when he starts thinking too much about his swing, he starts breaking down his swing while he's up at the plate and his swing becomes non-fluid.
He harped that he needs to keep getting in the batting cage and try to figure out what he wants to do and letting it go in the game. It seems like he can clear his mind and start a new In Tampa.
"Yeah it is," Heathcott said when asked if it was nice to start over here in Tampa. "I'm not a big fan of hitting in Charleston period, I don't know why I just don't like it and hopefully I'll like hitting here and we'll see when I start playing."
As life and baseball in Tampa has begun for Heathcott, he currently has one game under his belt with the squad where he had a stellar game. He went 3-5 belting a solo-home run and crossing the plate two times in the Yankees 10-3 win over the Daytona Cubs before going back on the 7-day DL.
It was nice for Heathcott to start his first game in a positive direction though and he gives thank to his home run for the past work that he has put in.
"I've been trying to keep my stride calm and my bat tendency is to get out and front and when I land my body sort of jars and I swing under a lot of pitches which is something I've been trying to work on," Heathcott said. "Fastballs were kind of getting on me and I stayed short, right to the ball and I got enough of it to get the ball out that night."
Tampa Yankees hitting coach, Justin Turner, who coached him last season in Charleston, sees a lot different Heathcott than lasts season.
"He's a lot looser, he's got tons of bat speed but like anybody if he gets tight, that bat speed slows down," Turner said. "When he stays loose he can really get that good bat speed through the zone and for not playing for a couple of weeks and playing the other night he swung that bat well, I was pretty happy."
Staying Loose Key For Heathcott
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