Tag:Colorado Rockies
Posted on: March 20, 2008 10:08 am

Clint Barnes - On the Way Back?

Below you'll find an interesting article on Clint Barnes, a guy who came up for the Rockies in 2005 and had a really hot two months.  An off-the-field injury (collarbone) not only screwed up his 2005 season, but also his mechanics.  He has been working on getting his swing back ever since, and based on his spring training performance so far, he looks like he may be on the way back.

Stories like this always reinforce, to my mind, just how different baseball is when compared to the other major sports.  All sports require pro-athlete level timing, mechanics, etc., but none approach baseball when it comes to that stuff.  A guy can look like David Wells and still dominate because of their unique combination of hand-eye coordination, mechanics, etc.  On the other hand, you take a great athlete like Michael Jordan, and he still can't .200 during spring training (and I don't think anyone is going to argue Jordan isn't a fantastic athlete who is also an incredibly hard worker).  Baseball is just...different.  It requires most of everything the other sports require, but to differing degrees (probably similar to golf in that respect).  I mean, think about it - the guy hurt his collarbone in 2005, and he is just now getting his swing back.

Anyway, I'm pulling for Clint Barnes.   The article also has a brief discussion on hitting mechanics, so read below (I've also provided the link to the original article).

Here it is:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rockies infielder Clint Barmes rates this spring as the best he's ever felt at the plate.

Really? Remember the first two months of 2005, when he was hitting .329 and seemed on his way to the National League Rookie of the Year Award?

But after taking nearly three years to learn what he didn't know in those two heady months, Barmes will gladly take his current Cactus League performance -- a .318 average in 10 games. It's good enough to give him the lead in competition for a utility job when the season opens.

"I kept everything simple in '05, and a lot of things worked out for me through those first two months when I swung the bat well," Barmes said. "But who's to say that if I stayed healthy all that whole year and I went into a funk that I'd be able to come out of it at that level? That's one thing that we'll never know.

"After the struggles I've had the last couple of years, I've learned a lot about my swing."

A freak fall away from the park left him with a broken collarbone, and he's hit .219 in 185 Major League games since. He also lost the starting shortstop job to Troy Tulowitzki.

Funk-proofing Barmes' swing has been a difficult process, one that forced him into long offseason sessions with Rockies hitting coach Alan Cockrell and assistant to the hitting coach Mike Bard. The quest led him to spend 108 games last season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he hit .299.

The key has been gaining "separation." Cockrell explained that when Barmes' left foot hits the ground after his stride, his hands are drawn back and ready to come forward. Proper timing of those maneuvers puts him in the best position to judge pitches.

"I think he's the most confident I've ever seen him," Cockrell said. "'Barmie' is such a hard worker that when you see it click like this, you believe there's going to be some consistency."

Manager Clint Hurdle echoed that Barmes looks comfortable.

"A player needs to get to a point in time in his career where he understands he's best served filling that role," Hurdle said. "Now, does he want to be an everyday player? Sure they do, but that's their ticket at the time. And he's gotten to the point where he knows he's most useful to this ballclub."

Barmes, 29, has improved his already solid work at shortstop, where he can back up Tulowitzki. Barmes has made six of his eight starts this spring at short. He has also shown the ability to play at second and third.

During Wednesday's 10-10 tie with the White Sox, Barmes entered in the bottom of the seventh for his second appearance in center field, and later moved to third. He walked in his only plate appearance, and scored.

Omar Quintanilla, the main competition for utility work, can be sent to the Minors without being exposed to waivers. Barmes is out of options and would have to clear waivers if the Rockies want to send him down.

"I'm very thankful for the opportunities the Rockies have given me," Barmes said. "They stuck with me through '06 when I was struggling at my worst. That says a lot to me."

Here's the link: http://colorado.rockies.mlb.com/new

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 17, 2008 11:06 am

Ian Stewart of the Rockes...


Ian Stewart was one of the prime reasons many in Colorado figured Garrett Atkins was going to be traded at some point last year (prior to the trade deadline, and the miraculous Rockies' run).  He was their first round pick in 2003, and has always been scouted as being a big-time prospect.  However, no matter how good a prospect you are, you won't bust out if you can't get on the field, and as long as Atkins keeps putting up monster numbers, Stewart's route to 3rd base is blocked.

This year, with Kaz Matsui off to the Astros, the Rockies are trying Stewart (along with about 1,000 other players) at 2nd base.  The idea is to try and get this guy's bat in the line-up, and hope he doesn't cost you too much in the field.  However, it may be his fielding that ultimately decides his fate at the start of the year.  If Stewart can demonstrate an ability to be a utility guy, a guy who can play multiple positions, he may be able to stick.  But at Coors Field, where double plays are even more important to get out of potentially disasterous innings, I doubt the Rockies will settle for anything other than solid (if not spectacular) defensive play at 2nd base.

The other thing about Ian Stewart, as the article below shows, is that people really really really want him to do well, even though he hasn't taken advantage the (albeit limited) opportunities he has had.  I mean, he hits two dingers in spring training, and they write an article about it.  Fact is, he's hitting below .250 in spring training, against at least some guys, I'd imiagine, who won't even be at the majors this year.  For a top prospect, you would hope he's be tearing the cover off the ball.  Maybe switching positions has taken his focus, but he didn't do much in limited action last year, and frankly, his best prospect performace was his first year or two.  The article mentions some mechanical adjusts, so maybe he'll bust out, but up until now, Stewart has had his chances, and he hasn't seized them.  If he had, we wouldn't be so excited about two home runs.

Here's the article:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Simply lifting his batting average above its current .241 would be nice for Rockies infield prospect Ian Stewart, but he will be judged by the damage his hits do. So the fact his last two hits have been home runs is significant.

The team's top pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, Stewart hit 40 home runs in his first 188 professional games. But he hasn't hit more than 17 in a full season since. Last year, he hit 15 at Triple-A Colorado Springs and one in a 35-game trial in the Majors, mostly as a pinch-hitter. The Rockies need Stewart to provide power, whether it's in the Majors or at Colorado Springs.

"It would be upsetting if I didn't produce some home runs and RBIs because that's the player that I am and the team expects me to be," said Stewart, who homered off the Mariners' J.J. Putz on Tuesday and the Rangers' Eric Hurley on Saturday.

After a slow start to his spring, Stewart's efforts to shorten his stroke are paying off in better plate discipline and more contact. "Over the last couple of weeks, I've really felt good, and I'm taking good at-bats," Stewart said. "I'm happy where I'm at."

Stewart is a natural third baseman but has been playing second in camp, competing for the starting job or at least add a position so he can be used off the bench. If he doesn't win significant playing time, the Rockies are likely to send him back to Colorado Springs to start regularly.

Unless Stewart catches fire, making the team out of Spring Training could be difficult. Garrett Atkins is a mainstay at third and a host of middle-infield types playing second, Jeff Baker, Clint Barmes and Omar Quintanilla, play more positions and would be more likely to play in a utility role.

And here's the link: http://colorado.rockies.mlb.com/new


Category: MLB
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