Q&A with St. Lucie Hitting Coach Mike Hart

Hart is impressed with Ruben Tejada

When looking down the roster sheet for St. Lucie, the numbers do not stand out to the eye which has been one of the many issues for the struggling Mets. Inside Pitch spoke to St. Lucie hitting coach Mike Hart about what issues have plagued his team. What does he think about Lucas Duda's development? What makes Ruben Tejada special? Find the answers to those questions and more…

Inside Pitch Magazine: Through the first month of the season, the lineup has struggled to find any rhythm or consistency virtually from the top down. What have been the pain points for this team?

Mike Hart: Offensively, I don't believe we've done too bad of a job. We've struggled in other areas, but I'm not too disappointed by any means in our production. We've got a young club in experience when it comes to hitters playing at this level. We've got eight guys in our usual lineup who are getting their first shot at the Florida State League. We've got some guys here who are going through some growing pains, but I think as the season progresses we'll be alright.

Inside Pitch Magazine: Is there an approach that you try to communicate to the team as an approach?

Mike Hart: We have a program that we use. We have our early work where we like to have our guys have a plan before they hit the field. We need our guys to see as much live hitting as possible because there is no substitute for getting game-action at-bats, and this is all a process that will take time. We want to have our guys approach hitting to their strengths and we try to bring the strengths out of our hitters.

Inside Pitch Magazine: What do you like about Ezequiel Carrera at the plate? He has a nice short, compact swing and stays through the ball well and has a little pop to his swing.

Mike Hart: Well, as our lead-off hitter, he has really impressed me so far. I think he is a real good prospect and he does a lot of good and different things for our lineup. He's got the potential to be a weapon for our team because of his ability to hit his way on base, and then once he's on base he can steal bases and make things happen with his legs. He plays centerfield really well, covers lots of ground, and I think he's got the potential to be a real good hitter as he continues to move up. He's still really young but we like what we see so far from him.

Inside Pitch Magazine: Lucas Duda is off to a real fine start. What do you see from him that you like? When it comes to his power potential, what does he need to do to meet it?

Mike Hart: Duda has been outstanding so far. He's getting pitches to hit and he's putting good swings on the ball. He's been very selective about the pitches to hit, you'll hardly ever see him chase the ball out of the zone and he's very good about getting around on fastballs and putting good wood on them. He's been outstanding in RBI situations, and he had 12 hits in his first 24 in run-scoring situations which speaks for itself. He's been our big guy in the middle of the lineup and has done a terrific job to start the year.

Inside Pitch Magazine: Sean McCraw is off to a really tough start, hitting under .200 through pretty much all of April. What does he need to do to get himself going and get out of this slump he has been in to start the year?

Mike Hart: Right now, he's got some mechanical issues that are causing him some grief. He's coming around the ball and not staying through the ball. The tough thing is that we have three catchers here now, and Josh Thole is doing a good job, Jason Jacobs has caught some good games and put a good average on the board, so for "Mac" right now, he's fighting for playing time. In order to get out of a slump you need at-bats obviously.

Inside Pitch Magazine: Ruben Tejada is just barely 19-years-old and already up in the Florida State League where the pitching is certainly unlike any he has seen before. What does he bring to the plate that you like? What does he need to do to further improve and find a rhythm here?

Mike Hart: Tejada is not afraid to hit which is the nice thing about him. Typically, you'll find guys his age playing at this level that are intimated by the league, by the pitchers, whatever. Being that it's his first full season you'd think he'd be intimidated but he's not by any means. He goes out there plays hard, battles even harder and has a real good idea how to play the game. I've been really impressed by his situation hitting approach, and I think this kid as a whole lot of upside.

Inside Pitch Magazine: Hector Pellot had a big turn around season in 2007 after struggling badly in 2006, but now he is in the middle of a prolonged cold spell to start the season. What have you seen from him that he is doing wrong? How can he turn it around in a short matter of time?

Mike Hart: Hector has got to get his rhythm and timing back, but his confidence as well. Any time a hitter goes through a period like this, confidence becomes an issues. Slumps affect hitters differently but it's just a matter of how he handles it. The only way he's going to get out of it will be to keep battling. He needs to get his rhythm and timing back, his swing is a little long right now and he's not staying through the ball so we're working on getting all that worked out. Once he puts all that together, I think we'll see the quality hitting we saw from Hector last year.

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