Stewart Taking One Step at a Time

Stewart broke camp in Triple-A for the first time

Caleb Stewart, 25, has progressively moved up the Mets' organization basically one level per season throughout his career. Now, Stewart discusses with Inside Pitch making it to New Orleans for Opening Day and what he continues to improve after an injury disrupted a very positive season in 2007.

[The following is an excerpt from the feature article in the upcoming edition of Inside Pitch Magazine]

Nice, easy baby steps. That's been the road for Caleb Stewart.

He's seen four different leagues – each at a different level – in four different years, making about as steady of a progression that anyone could ask for. No hasty demotions or quick call-ups.

"He's got some tools. He's a big, strong kid," Oberkfell said. "I think it helps that he keeps gradually moving up the ladder right up the big leagues."

After a solid first half to 2007 where he hit .280 with 13 home runs, playing his way into the Eastern League All-Star game, a nagging oblique strain limited him to just three home runs over the rest of the year.

Did the slow finish concern The Mets? Doubtful. They've always liked his raw power and ability to play all the outfield positions. So they called him up in the offseason to Triple-A New Orleans, his first try at the level, after he hit six home runs in 12 games in the Arizona Fall League. He's batted in the cleanup position since day one.

Don't expect to see Stewart sweating over the competition.

"Pitchers are going to pitch the cleanup guy a little different," Stewart said. "But I don't think about it that way. I've always hit in that slot."

While he mashed in the first months of 2007, winning the Eastern League Player of the Month in May, this year has been more of a struggle. He's been hitting slightly above the Mendoza line, with little power and walks.

Stewart has been spending time with hitting coach Jack Voigt to identify problems with his swing. A trap that Stewart finds himself falling into, he says, has been in his day-to-day approach.

"That's been one of my biggest weakness, trying to stick with something that going to help me out. One day, I have a bad day and I have to go and change something instead of sticking to what I believe helps me. And stick to that instead of trying to change."

Both Stewart and Voigt agree that his swing, which screams power hitter, isn't the problem. It's his consistency.

"'Stew' is a guy that can hit the ball out of the ballpark," Voigt said. "But usually he hits the ball out of the ballpark when he's not trying to do it. He puts a nice, easy swing on it and he does what he's supposed to do. And then the power comes."

"I'm trying to be a little more discipline," Stewart said. "I've kinda gone through by trying to find a rhythm. Something that you can continue to do everyday. I've kind of bounced around and not been very consistent as far as sticking with an approach and sticking with things that can help me out and get me better."

Despite Stewart's tendency to get away from what works, Voigt likes that he acknowledges his problems and that he is willing to fix it.

"When a player can feel what's going on, it's a lot easier to fix and it's a lot quicker to fix," Voigt said.

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