Ford Not Worried About Slow Start

Tampa, FL - Mike Ford had one of the more consistent seasons in the farm system last year and he proved to be one of the better hitters around. The numbers so far this season haven't exactly supported that, however, but nobody in Tampa is worried at all, including Ford himself.

Mike Ford had a great first full season last year playing most of the season with low-A Charleston before being promoted to Tampa towards the end of the year. His breakout 2014 season earned him a start at first base in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. He went into this offseason dedicated to improving his defense in the field.

He hit for a combined .292 average between Charleston and Tampa in 2014 with an on-base percentage of .383, drawing 52 walks against only 48 strikeouts which got him considerable praise for his plate discipline. Going into the offseason confident in his offensive game, he hoped to improve his conditioning and his fielding.

The undrafted free agent out of Princeton hasn’t gotten off to as good of a start as he would like this season, however, hitting just .167 through his first 13 games, but he isn’t concerned about it at all and neither is hitting coach Tommy Slater.

"There’s no cause for concern," Slater said. "If you look at his walk to strikeout ratio it’s pretty good. He just needs some balls to start falling for him and they will. He’s a good hitter."

Ford really isn’t known for his power and arguably it's his only shortcoming offensively. Being only six foot and weighing around 225 pounds he has relied mostly on making consistent contact and drawing walks to get on base in the past but Slater believes he may have some hidden pop in his bat.

"Mike gets the barrel to the baseball with consistency and he’s got good double, gap to gap power," Slater opined.

The biggest room for improvement though is in actually in the field where Ford went into this offseason focused on improving his defense and his running mechanics which improved his overall conditioning to help him handle the rigors of playing first base.

To do this Ford spent his offseason back at Princeton with his former head coach, along with a new trainer, doing field and agility drills while hitting the gym.

"The fielding side of the game is what we’re really focusing on right now," Ford admitted. "I really worked on running mechanics, trying to pick up some speed and did a ton of lifting. I tried to lose bad weight and put on good weight, so even though I’m still about the same weight I have better body composition.”

He’s also not letting his slow start at the plate affect his confidence. On the season Ford is hitting .167 with an OPS of .481 and only has three RBI’s through 13 games which is a far cry from the kind of numbers he was putting up last year. He’s hoping to see some better results at the plate sometime soon but he isn't overly concerned.

“I’ve hit some balls hard at people and I’m seeing the ball really well, I'm just not getting the results right now. I've kind of got to grind through it. Baseball averages swing throughout the season and hopefully I’ll be on a good swing here soon,” he said laughingly.

In the offseason Ford was seen as a sort of a 'sleeper' pick due to being undrafted unlike some of the other players on the team who were taken high in the draft, and also because of how unnoticed he seemed to go last year despite having a great season at the plate.

Don’t tell that though to Ford’s manager, Dave Bialas, who thinks Ford shouldn’t surprise anyone.

"Surprise who? He wouldn’t surprise me at all," Bialas said adamantly. "He came off a good camp in the spring and he’s going to hit. He has some power to him and this stadium has big gaps in the outfield that will play well to his swing."

Still after an offseason of working out, a long Spring Training, and despite the slow start to the season, Ford is still excited for this year.

“It’s a long season, it’s a grind. But it should be a lot of fun,” he said with a grin on his face.

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