Lupo Adjusting Well

Lupo had a 1.108 OPS last year

ST. LUCIE, Fla. – After a breakout year in the Dominican Summer League, Venezuelan left fielder Vicente Lupo entered Extended Spring Training determined to learn from his teammates and coaches and add to his game. And although the pulling of his wisdom teeth forced the 19-year-old to return home briefly, Lupo is now back in the swing of things and ready to take his game to the next level.

After improving his agility, getting stronger and lowering his body fat during the offseason, Lupo, who posted a .346 average, a .500 on-base percentage, a .608 slugging percentage, and a 1.108 OPS last year, started Spring Training this year eager to soak up everything like a sponge.

"It was a learning experience," Lupo said through the help of a translator, "seeing veteran guys and their ability to execute certain things, like pitchers throwing a 3-1 breaking ball or something like that. I was just trying to learn from the veteran guys. That was really the thing I focused on."

But while Lupo's willingness to learn is readily apparent, his potential is equally evident.

"He's a good hitter," manager Rich Donnelly said. "He's been out for a while, he had some wisdom teeth pulled out and he just got back about a week ago and he's still getting his strength back, but he's a pretty good hitter. He had a good year last year and he's a strong kid, knows how to play the game."

Donnelly is particularly impressed with his ability to drive the ball and his good hand-eye coordination. But after 27 years in pro ball, the skipper knows that as young players move up in an organization the competition gets fiercer and opponents learn to adjust. Thus he is convinced that right now the most important thing for the young Venezuelan is to get as many reps as possible.

"These young kids, they need to scrimmage," Donnelly said. "They need a hundred of them, because they're going to face stuff that they've never seen before. They're going to face, as they get older, 3-1 curveballs, 2-0 curveballs, 2-0 changeups and you got to adjust. You got to learn that if it's not a strike, you'll lay off it.

"It's going to get tougher, but once they adjust to it, once he adjusts to it I think he's going to be fine, because he's got a short, quick swing and that plays everywhere. Now all he has to do is play the game."

That constant improvement and consistency are the keys to success in baseball is no secret to Lupo either.

"I want to be better in every facet of the game," Lupo said. "I want to try and improve a bit in everything. But the first thing I focused on is my focus and my approach. I want to make sure that I have a consistent approach: I'm not swinging at breaking balls early in the count. I'm getting ahead and getting my pitch to hit."

But while everything on the diamond is still more or less the same for the Venezuelan, his environment off the field changed quite a bit over the course of the past few months. And although the food may not be the same as at home, the trek from his domicile to the field longer ("In the Dominican you're going from the dorm room right to the field") and the language his teammates speak different, Lupo feels like he has been able to adjust fairly well.

"I am lucky that I had the chance to be here in Spring Training and to [have had] that month and change adjustment time as opposed to my teammates who came on April 13th. So I'm happy I've had that time and I think I've made that adjustment," Lupo concluded.

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