Ryan Coultas returned to the St. Lucie roster at the start of this season after a brief stay with the team in 2006. The 25-year-old infielder is not known for his stick, but thanks to his defense he has maintained his presence despite not playing everyday. He got off to a strong start this year, hitting .360 in his first nine games which earned him a promotion to Binghamton.
However, he struggled during his first trip to the Eastern League. The call-up came after an injury to Jose Coronado, and Coultas knew he would have to make the most of his opportunity. Success did not come easy for him as he hit just .182 (10-for-55) in 21 games. He admits that he simply tried to do too much.
”I wish my performance would have been a little bit better in Binghamton, but I think I put too much pressure on myself when I got there,” he said. “I think I added pressure on myself in all facets of the game, and it was unnecessary pressure. I just wanted to prove myself. I think the extra effort hurt me more than anything.”
While his offensive tools may have lagged this year, he does feel he took strides in terms of his mental approach and preparation for the game. He took his experience from Binghamton back to St. Lucie (he was recalled in May) and put his renewed focus to work.
“This year really was a year of mental growth for me than physical,” said Coultas. “I think my maturity grew more than anything. Learning that the less I worry about things, the better things seem to turn out, and I didn’t have that in Binghamton. But, going through the failures and learning what to do and what not to do in how to approach the game was important.”
Where the refined approach paid off most was at the plate. Upon his return to St. Lucie, he hit .290 in 20 games in May. He attributes his performance to a renewed patience at the plate.
”I got a little better feel for pitching patterns, different counts, and what maybe to look for with two strikes; I think I improved a lot on that this year. I think towards the end of the year, my patience at the plate grew a lot,” he explained.
Unfortunately for Coultas, he fell hard in Juune, hitting .096 in 16 games and in the process lost a significant amount of playing time. However, he kept plugging away, and turned it around in August when he hit .344 in 11 games. He did so by maintaining his plate presence and developing a further understanding of pitch counts and situations.
” Seeing breaking balls and changeups have been much better this year. I think it comes from the fact that I realized very few guys will throw a fastball that is totally overpowering,” he said. “When I see the off-speed pitch, I need to react and be able to stay back on the ball instead of thinking that guys will just blow fastballs by me. I need to realize that I have more time than I think I do.”
In the past when Coultas was slow at the plate he typically relied on his defense to carry him through tough times. Yet even in the field, he described that hey may have let his offensive woes carry into his defense.
”I think year was a little disappointing in the field,” he said. “But, the more pressure I put on myself the tougher it becomes. I think because of the pressure I put on myself in Binghamton, it was just creeping into all parts of my game.”
”I think the main thing I need to do is not worry about it as much, and just take groundballs and get my rhythm back. It’s just like hitting sometimes, where you lose the rhythm of your feet and your hands.
One positive he does walk away with is that he regained arm strength which he admits has been lacking since his college days. But even that bit of good news does not nullify the disappointment he feels for this past season. Though Coultas is not one to stay down on himself, as keeps a positive mindset heading into the winter and next spring.
“Mentally, this year was definitely a step in the right direction; I just got caught up in the mechanics. I know I have yet to have a year that I’ve maximized my potential, but this year was vastly better than the year before, but both years I feel I could have played a lot better,” he closed.