With offensive coming at premium across the farm system, Inside Pitch Magazine looks at the most…
Stewart Returning to Form
The power-hitting right-fielder has reason to feel so down about his second half with Binghamton last season. After racing to the All-Star Break with a .280 average with 13 home runs [and a Player of the Month Award], Stewart's high quality play was undercut by a rib cage injury that never fully healed in the season's closing months. He ended up with a .252 batting average and 16 home runs at season's end.
However, the break between the regular season and the beginning of the Arizona Fall League provided Stewart enough time to overcome his injury, and he quickly took advantage.. Though he played in just 12 fall league games, he swatted six home runs displaying the power reminiscent of early spring. For him, it was a stepping stone for his return to camp this spring.
"My time in the Arizona Fall League helped me out enough to where I hope it cancelled my problems out. The Fall League let me know that I can still have the type of game and power that I expect of myself. It's a matter of concentrating on what I need to do and keeping drilling that in my head," he explained.
"It took me until about the end of the [Eastern League] season to find out what I was doing wrong, but the time I spent in the Arizona Fall League really let me see those errors in my swing. Down there, I tried to stay as smooth as possible and it let me have success there."
The focus this Spring Training continues to be the reformation of that power stroke. Although Stewart has always lacked ideal contact skills, his power—though streaky at times in the past—has stayed with him as he has moved up the ranks. During camp, it is Stewart's mission to solidify his rhythm, timing and maintaining a consistent stroke.
"The coaches have been working on my rhythm with me. It's about finding a more consistent rhythm that should be there throughout the year, and if I do get off-track, make sure that it isn't so far off that I have a tough time coming back," he explained.
"My swing is really coming along. I've felt better as the weeks have come along. My timing is still off a bit, but I'm not worried it right now. In the next week my timing should come back around in time for the season to start."
Now Stewart looks ahead, eager to shake off the disappointment that came with last summer, and he is off to a good start. Late last week he was invited to big league camp to partake in the club's Spring Training games where Stewart got on base and scored a couple runs. The opportunity he feels reinforced his work.
"It was a great opportunity and strangely enough I feel very comfortable in those games. I'm just going into the games and try to be as calm and relaxed as possible and let everything just come together," he said.
Yet Stewart remains modest on what he wants to accomplish at least in the early stages of the season. He has seen how quickly a strong season can sour so he is taking every development one step at a time until he settles into that rhythm that evaded him last summer.
"I obviously want to get off to a good start, but numbers-wise, I haven't set anything. I'm just trying to stay relaxed and get my comfort zone back. I can't put too much pressure on myself. I just need to see the ball, hit the ball, play good defense and help my team win," he closed.
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