Willy Adames is just a step away from the Major Leagues as he serves as Durham's everyday shortstop. But knowing that did not serve the top prospect in the Rays system very well at the start of the season.
After collecting two hits on Opening Day, Adames struggled at the plate. He batted .210 in 20 April games, then hit .245 in May to raise his average to .230 with two homers and 21 RBIs.
"The first two months, I thought about [being close to the Majors] a lot," Adames admitted. "Then I realized that I just have to do my job here. If I don't do my job here, I'm not going to go up to the big leagues. … So now I just focus on doing my job and whatever happens, happens."
Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said the slow start did not bother Adames.
"He had some at-bats where he hit the ball hard but didn't have much good luck," Sandberg said. "But you're talking about a 21-year-old at Triple-A, trying to find his way a little bit. He can play and he has all the skills in the world at an elite level. And he's fun to watch. It's only a matter of time before he catches fire and shows what he can do at this level."
That time may be now, as the 6-foot, 200-pound shortstop's bat has caught fire in June. In his first 21 games this month, Adames batted .382 with two homers and 11 RBIs. He also drew 14 walks for a .484 on-base percentage.
And while the native of the Dominican Republic has committed 17 errors -- tops among IL shortstops -- he's also played more games and handled more chances than any other player at the position and he's made strides in improving his defense.
"I've been working on my throwing," Adames said. "Before, my accuracy wasn't very good, but I think it's getting better. I just want to make the routine play every time, then get to every other ball that I can."
Adames said the key to his resurgence has been focusing on not getting too high or too low, instead bringing the same work ethic every day.
"Our hitting coach, Ozzie [Timmons], is teaching me that I have to have the same routine every day," he explained. "That's why Major Leaguers are so good: they have a routine every day and they are consistent. And I have learned this year that if I work hard and stay with my routine, eventually the good days are going to come."
Sandberg said he was pleased with the way Adames put the struggles of the first two months behind him by keeping a positive attitude.
"That's my verbal key with Willy: keep smiling," the skipper said. "I know when he's smiling, he's having fun and his chin is up. As long as he's smiling, he's having fun. And if he's having fun, he'll do well."
Shaffer sizzling: Columbus OF Richie Shaffer has put together a strong month at the plate, batting .299 with seven homers and 21 RBIs. Those seven homers are tops in the IL in June, while the 21 RBIs place him second. For the season, Shaffer is hitting .271 and ranks second in the league with 16 homers and 55 RBIs.
If you can't get on base, you can't score: It's easy to see why Lehigh Valley RHP Tom Eshelman ranks among the IL's top pitchers. He leads starting pitchers in fewest walks, issuing 0.97 per nine innings, and is fifth with a .226 opponents' batting average (.226), which means his 8.45 baserunners per nine innings is tops in the IL. The result is a 5-2 record and 2.08 ERA that also leads the circuit.
He said it: "Every time [Jason Krizan] is at the plate, he puts the bat on the ball. And the ball has a good sound coming off his bat. He has a good path to the ball and barrels it up well. And he's got good gap-to-gap power." --Toledo manager Mike Rojas to The (Toledo) Blade. Krizan hit .264 with a homer, three triples and 10 doubles in his first 50 games with the Mud Hens this season.
He said it, part II: "I'm all bought in on that. I'd do anything to get to the big leagues. So if [moving to the bullpen] is what you need, I'd be happy to do it. It was a pretty simple talk. … Getting into the 'pen the first couple times, it was getting used to maybe coming into more high-pressure situations and knowing I'm only going to have one inning to get through it. That's something that I've learned now, is that you can come in and give guys your best stuff, knowing you don't have to get through the lineup three or four times. It's been a pretty easy transition. I still have work to do, but it hasn't been too bad." --Syracuse RHP Erick Fedde to the Syracuse Post-Standard. A starter throughout his career, the 24-year-old is 1-0 with a 6.35 ERA in his first four relief appearances with the Chiefs.