Jagielo Seeking More Consistency

TRENTON, NJ - Eric Jagielo had a solid first full season last year despite missing a good chunk of the season with an injury. He finished tied for third in home runs in the farm system even though he had the fewest at-bats of any of the home run leaders and yet he entered this past offseason with the goal of further improving his game on both sides of the ball in an effort to get more consistent.

Despite an oblique injury that stole 60 days of his debut season, third baseman Eric Jagielo still managed to hit 16 home runs [18 home runs total over two levels] and drive in 54 with the Tampa Bay Yankees in his first full season last year.

Entering his second full season of professional ball, the Yankees’ 2013 first-round pick will be making the jump to Double-A where he hopes to continue the offensive success he enjoyed at the end of last season while improving defensively.

However, manager Al Pedrique alluded to a potential time-share at the hot corner between Jagielo and the Yankees’ 2011 first selection, Dante Bichette Jr., so Jagielo will need to show he can play the position well enough to stay in the starting lineup.

But, the left-handed batter isn’t concerned.

“Dante and I, we’ve worked hard together, and we did it last year in Tampa for the most part, until I got injured, and then he came up to Trenton,” Jagielo said. “We’ve talked about it before and both of us just want to do whatever we can on the field to help the team win.”

In order to secure his spot in the lineup, he will likely have to commit less than the 16 errors he had last season. However, Pedrique trusts the work in the field will improve for his third baseman.

“He’s been working hard on his defense, especially on routine plays, not to take too much time to make the throws,” Pedrique said. “He needs to be quick with his footwork. The hands will get better.”

Now fully healed from the injury that held him out of the lineup for a sizable part of 2014, Jagielo hopes to keep himself in the lineup every day and has worked extensively throughout the offseason to train and improve his diet.

“That [injury] was settled last year. It was a learning thing,” he said. “I don’t think it was anything that I could prevent, so the biggest thing was just getting healthy in the offseason and coming in ready to go.”

Entering his professional career around 230 pounds, the 6-foot-2 third baseman has come down between 215 and 220 pounds, which is closer to the weight he played at for most of his collegiate career at Notre Dame.

His condition has not gone unnoticed as hitting coach P.J. Pilittere believes a lighter, more agile Jagielo could pay dividends for the Thunder.

“The biggest I’ve noticed is just his body,” Pilittere said. “He looks good. He dropped some weight. He looks really athletic. He’s moving around really, really well right now. I’m excited for him; I think it’s going to be a big year.”

While Jagielo should provide a reliable source of power in a potentially potent starting lineup, he hopes to deliver big hits more consistently in his second full campaign.

“I think when you look back at it, that’s what’s going keep on getting you to the next level, just coming to the field and being able to put your best performance out there every day to help the team win,” he said.

Pilittere eagerly described the exemplary attitude of the young third baseman, who he describes as a “very polished hitter.”

“At one point last year, it was mid-season, and Jagielo had a bunch of homers, and he was hitting around .260, and he even came to me and said, ‘Hey, I need to be more consistent.’ You love that kind of attitude in a hitter that’s already having success in his first year. He wants to continue to get better,” Pilittere said.

To take Jagielo’s offensive game to the next level, Pilittere has been trying to prevent him from obsessing over the inside pitch, and telling him to force pitchers to beat him inside.

“Just getting him more centered out over the plate [is the focus] because he’s got the ability to launch the ball to left-center and to the middle of the diamond,” Pilittere said. “So trying to get him back, getting his head wrapped around that approach of using the whole field.”

With all the work Jagielo has put in this offseason he is just eager to get on the field and start the season.

“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “This team is going to be fun to watch. There are a lot of great dudes on this team. A lot of them are my good friends and we all hang out, so we’re all really excited.”

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