Righties have been a test for the switch-hitter
The last few seasons have been a test for the New Orleans right-fielder, but Victor Mendez will not give in to challenges. After bouncing up and down the Mets' farm system in 2007, Mendez has a spot in the Zephyrs outfield where the opportunity exists to improve on a daily basis.
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Victor Mendez, a 28 year old right fielder from the Dominican Republic, might have less than perfect English in one of his first interviews without a translator, but his knowledge of the language of baseball needs no translation. His work ethic with the Zephyrs, after playing only 14 games in 2007, has led to his improvement in switch hitting for New Orleans.
Mendez signed with Detroit Tigers in 1998 as a free agent, and worked his way up through the Tigers organization before being acquired by the Mets organization the fall of 2007. Before coming to the Zephyrs, Mendez had last played in Triple-A in 2006 for the Tigers team in Toledo.
In 2007, Mendez played at the Rookie Level Mets in the Gulf Coast League, and then played in only 14 games for the Single-A St. Lucie Mets because of a broken big toe during the season. Now with his body healthy again, Mendez is looking to be a productive switch hitter for New Orleans.
“I feel good, much better,” Mendez said of this season in Triple-A. “I plan on playing every day here and working hard with the hitting coach.”
Hitting coach, Jack Voigt has noticed Mendez’s desire and dedication to training and playing at the Triple-A level.
“He’s a part of this club for a reason,” Voigt said of Mendez’s advancement to Triple-A. “He is a good defender in the outfield and he is able to put together some good at-bats for us. He is working really hard and he has a routine that he goes through and he is starting to really understand the game.”
However it seems that sometimes Mendez tries or thinks too hard about hitting and his at-bats miss the mark. So far this season, he has been struck out 23 times.
“Sometimes the harder you try the more you mess it up, so sometimes you have to relax and learn to trust your talent,” Voigt said.
Mendez has the talent needed to play at the Triple-A level, batting .248 for the Zephyrs in 49 games played so far. He has scored ten runs and has 25 hits including two home runs. He has a slightly higher percentage against righties at .278 opposed to .231 against lefties. This hitting disparity is something Mendez looks to improve during the season.
“My swing is something I still need to work on,” Mendez said. “Sometimes the pitches come from a lefty or righty, so I’m working hard to hit against both.”
In New Orleans, the Zephyrs work on all aspects of hitting in a normal routine, however if there are some specific problems with a hitter, then those would be addressed individually. Mendez is on the regular routine with Voigt.
“We work on everything down here not just individual things. Victor right now just goes through our regular routine, he does his drill work, flip work, works on staying through the ball and staying through the middle of the field,” Voigt said. “Specifically we touch on how to pull and how to drive the ball away, but most of the time we try to just stay in the middle of the field.”
As for the expectations and goals for Mendez this season, he would like to stay healthy and continue to improve at the Triple-A level. As for his coaches, Voigt would like to see him be successful at the plate against both righties and lefties.
“For myself as a hitting coach, when the manager puts him in there, to see him be productive,” Voigt said of expectations of Mendez’s at the plate. “That’s all I can ask as a coach, just prepare the guys and see them hopefully do their job, if they don’t, then we work on making adjustments so then next time they are put in we can see them improve.”