Custodio Looking For An Opportunity

TAMPA, FL - Claudio Custodio was once a rising prospect in the Yankee farm system but a string of injuries led to inconsistent playing time. He amassed just 377 at-bats combined over the previous two seasons and his falling production was the end result. However, he's been getting a lot of playing time in Spring Training this year and he's once again opening some eyes with his play.

He pulled his left quad back in 2013 as the starting shortstop for the Charleston RiverDogs and was limited to just 45 games that year. With Cito Culver already at the A-ball level and the drafting of Tyler Wade and the ascension of other shortstops that year [Thairo Estrada for one] he was starting to get quickly squeezed out of the position, and that led to even further limited opportunities even when he was healthy.

"I was on the DL but I was never injured," Custodio said of the 2014 season through the help of a translator. "They put me on the DL because that was the moves the team needed to do but I was never injured last year."

It was also partly due to his transition to the outfield. The Yankees moved the plus runner to the outfield to help give him some more roster flexibility and better role versatility, but he was still learning the ropes of a new position and that takes time.

"I feel like the transition was harder at first but I'm getting the hang of it quick," he said. "I like to cover ground in the outfield, I like to use my speed, and I feel a lot more comfortable out there since I started [playing outfield].

"I feel like it's a good move for my career, not to be just stuck in the infield, to be in the outfield and do both at the same time."

He says he used his time last year behind the scenes to further refine the various areas of his game. While most of it came on the defensive side of the ball learning a new position, he did further tweak his running game and overall offensive approach too.

"I feel with the new defensive instructor and base running instructor that I'm getting a lot better," he opined. "I'm getting tips with my base running and in the outfield I'm able to use some tactics defensively. There are a lot of new things I've added to my game."

He has looked like a completely different player in camp this year. He looks quite smooth in the outfield, a lot more patient at the plate, and he's even shown some power in the batter's box, hitting a couple of home runs.

"I feel more relaxed and more patient at the plate, waiting for better pitches and not swinging and taking those hacks at pitches outside of the zone," he admitted. "I'm more plate disciplined with the pitches."

He's been turning some heads in Spring Training and he has found some inspiration from the likes of Jose Pirela, another prospect who had been around for a number of years but who began to blossom later in his career.

Custodio believes that this Spring Training camp could be a resurrection of sorts for his career and, like Pirela, could potentially find himself back on the prospect radar if he continues to progress the higher he climbs.

"If I'm given the opportunity like I've been given here [in camp] I think I'm going to have my best year offensively and defensively, to show my speed on the bases and in the outfield too.

"I just want the opportunity. It's a little hard for guys like me to maybe get one at-bat or two games in a week and you press yourself instead of relaxing and doing your job. That's what I have to get away from, not pressing and not giving in during that at-bat, and just relax and let the game come to me."

An above average defender at shortstop and even second base too, he's hoping his new versatility in the field and better production at the plate afford him the opportunity to showcase some of his skills in 2015.

"I'm very hopeful. I have a lot of plans for me this year and a lot of goals, and hopefully they can let me get to those goals," he concluded.

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