While Lash is covering the Mariners tonight, I'm here at the home opener for the Tacoma Rainiers. Due to some changes on the staff, I'll be covering more than a few Rainiers games, which isn't a bad thing.
I won't always be blogging from the Rainiers, but I decided to post from here since I talked to Jeff Clement for the first time since he was sent to Triple A in spring training. As expected, he was his typical good natured self. I also talked with Rainiers hitting coach Alonzo Powell, who said that Clement's average isn't indicative of the type of the type of bats he's been having.
"It's not as bad as it looks," Powell said. "He's had some quality at-bats, he's laid off some bad pitches for the most part. I'm not worried about him right now. He's consistent in his approach. I think its just a matter of time until he gets going."
Clement was very frank about his recent play saying: "Obviously right now, I'm not playing as well as I can. Hopefully that gets turned around in a hurry."
And it did in his first at-bat tonight. Clement crushed a two-run homer deep to right field off of pitcher Edgar Gonzalez.
UPDATE In his second at-bat, Clement nearly missed out on another home run as he pulled a ball down the line that was foul by a foot or two. But later in the bat he drove a ball to the left-center gap for an RBI double. .
Here's a transcript of our pregame interview ...
On how the .052 batting average would appear to people upon first glance?
Well, I would definitely say not to panic, 19 at-bats is nothing. Over course the season you get 400 to 500 at-bats. Obviously I'd like to be having more success. Last year at this point, it was the complete opposite and I was having a lot of success.
I haven't had as many consistently good at-bats as I did a year ago. I've got quite a few walks. I'm striking out way more than I should be. I've had a lot hittable pitches that I just haven't been getting the barrel to. It's been a daily effort where I'm trying to get in the cage and get things figured out. So when I get out to the field, I'm not thinking about anything, I'm just seeing it and hitting it.
People go through slumps during a season, does it just look worse because its at the beginning?
I'd rather have it be after I've had some success and all the sudden you have a 1-for-19 slide. It's the beginning of the season and you'd rather get off to a hot start, but it's a lot easier to take when the team's having some success. We're 6-2 and for me to be swinging the bat the way I have, it makes it a lot easier than if we were 2-6 and I was coming up in key situations and I'm not getting it done.
What was your reaction to being sent to Tacoma during spring training?
The decision was made. I went in there and they told me. What are you going to do go sulk or go bring the rest of the team down? No way. I'm not going to go do that. It's too easy to get bitter about different things. That's not me. That's not the way I want to be. That's not the kind of guy I want to be in the clubhouse. You just take it for what its worth. Coming down here, I just want to play up to my capability and if I do that, I know everything is going to work out. I don't know how it will, but I know it will
Did you think you were pressing during the spring?
I really don't think I was pressing. I didn't do anything special this spring and I didn't do anything awful. I was kind of just another player. It's a tough situation when you're playing once every three days – the same boat as Rob and Jamie. It's tough to get in a rhythm.
It was also tough in the fact that I rehabbed all offseason and I didn't start catching till baseball started. I got down there a little bit early, caught a couple bullpens and that's it. My body is still trying to get used to the wear and tear of playing every day.
So you would have done more if not for the rehabbing of the knee surgery?
I would definitely been catching before spring training, and I know I would have been hitting. I went over four months without swinging a bat. I don't know in my life if I've ever gone four months without swinging a bat. Maybe my first four months of my life. From age 5 or 6 on I haven't went that long without hitting. I don't know if it had an effect or not.
I'd be willing to say from age 12 to age 25, I've taken as many swings as anybody else. My dad was my HS baseball coach, I used to take 300 swings a day off o him. And my high school coach was already willing to throw BP, I used to hit, hit, hit.
Do you think not hitting for four months had an effect?
To go that long without hitting, it probably has some kind of effect. Just trying to figure out how to get back to what works, get back to my swing and what works best.
I've been doing that every day, trying take one round o ground balls during BP and I've been working with Darrin Garner are roving infield coach. I'm getting comfortable there now. I don't think that position is as easy as everyone thinks it is. When you haven't taken a ground ball in 7 years, it's not as easy to field as guys going from third base to first base.
How is the work at first base going?
It's a work in progress. The thing is, when I get out there, I want to help the team. I don't want to get out there and just be awful for the pitching staff and the rest of the team. I want to make sure when I go over there I can make the plays I should be making.
The more I've been taking ground balls, during the game I'm paying more attention how much they're in the action. It's a lot, There's all sorts of ground balls, you have to learn the bunt play and learning the nuances of playing a new position.
Do you have an idea when you might get some game action at first?
I have no idea. I really don't.
You just don't take ground balls for two weeks and feel comfortable. I think that's what people expect. I don't know how long it will take. I'm just going to keep working at it.