BINGHAMTON, NY - The second half of the Eastern League season is underway and there is still much…
Ratliff Out To Prove Himself At Next Level
The 23-year old Ratliff, drafted in the fourth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, has steadily improved his performance each season. He began 2010 with St. Lucie and hit .275 with five home runs and 30 RBI in 57 games in the Florida State League. Promoted on June 15th, Ratliff has already recognized the differences between Double-A and High-A ball.
"Everything's just a little bit sharper," Ratliff said. "Everybody's a little more mature. The game is played at a little bit of a quicker pace. Everybody throws strikes and everybody throws multiple pitches for strikes. The hitters are more intelligent. Everything's just played at a little bit of a higher level."
When he found out he was getting promoted to Binghamton, Ratliff was thrilled, while also eager to prove that he could handle the Eastern League.
"I was excited. I knew that Kirk (Nieuwenhuis) was a little sore and Carlos Guzman went down, and I knew when I got the call-up that I was going to get a chance to play right away and hopefully make an impact. I was excited to see what I was made of," Ratliff said.
In his first six Eastern League games, Ratliff is 7-for-26. He recorded at least one hit in five games including his first Double-A home run, three RBI, two doubles and one stolen base. Ratliff is glad he's been able to contribute immediately for the B-Mets.
"It's good, that's obviously what you want to do," he said. "You want to come up and show the team that you can contribute, that you can be thrown in the lineup right away and be mature enough to get the job done in the situations you need to get it done in."
Ratliff's progress over the last couple of years is a result of the approach his brings to the field every day. He knows perfection is impossible and that there's always room for improvement in all aspects of the game.
"You just have to keep working every day," Ratliff said. "You've got to know that nobody knows everything in this game and nobody's got it perfect. There's always something that you can work on every day to improve yourself as a player. Whether it's offensively, defensively or running the bases, there's something to wake up every morning to and know that you've got to try to get better to keep the progression going."
After swiping 11 bags all of last season, Ratliff is developing into a legitimate base-stealer. He already has ten stolen bases this season, notching his first Eastern League steal on Wednesday night, and has been caught stealing just twice. Ratliff attributes his increased stolen base rate to hard work and the teams' mindset.
"As an organization this year we've kind of been a little more open to giving guys the green light," Ratliff said. "If you think you can run and they think you can steal bases, they kind of let you go when you feel like you have the opportunity to go."
"I've been working hard on getting good reads off of pitchers, getting better jumps and picking good counts to run on. I think it's a combination of being given the freedom to run, as well as getting better at the little nuances of stealing bases," he added.
After hitting eighth in his B-Mets debut, Ratliff has hit in the two hole in every game since. He went 3-for-6 in his first game in that slot. Batting second isn't something Ratliff is accustomed to, but he's happy just have his name on the lineup card.
"I'm just glad I can be anywhere in the lineup where I can help us get the job done," he said. "It's been a long time since I've hit in the two hole, since college I think. In pro ball I've been mostly a three, four, five, six guy, a guy further down the lineup, an RBI guy. But I'm trying to get on base right now and set the table for Evans and the other guys to drive in runs."
Ratliff has been playing center field while Nieuwenhuis has been out nursing a shoulder injury. He's already displayed quality range in his short time with the B-Mets, and center is where Ratliff feels he does his best work.
"I've played center my whole career," he said. "I kind of made the adjustment to left field in Brooklyn my first year and kind of played left and right on and off throughout my pro career. I'm most comfortable in center; I feel like I get the best reads out there. But I can play all three positions depending on what they need."
Looking forward, Ratliff is seeking to establish himself at the Double-A level, and if he can keep producing like he has thus far, he's well on his way to doing so.
"I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. Just keep having success at the plate, have good at-bats, play very good defense and just help to contribute any way I can," Ratliff closed.
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