Injuries are rarely helpful, but the hip problem that sidelined Carolina Mudcats infielder Tony Wolters
for a few days early this season proved to be a bit of a blessing.
The reason -- it gave him time to refocus. Wolters, who turned 20 in June, missed a week and realized he was pressuring himself too much and in too many ways. He began to turn things around when he returned and steadily developed into one of Carolina's top offensive threats this season.
A third-round pick of the Indians in the 2010 Draft, Wolters started the season far below the Mendoza line with a .130 average at the end of April. That's when a hip flexor injury kept him out about a week. Wolters returned on a mission, batting .291 in May and tearing up the circuit in July to the tune of .343 in 25 games. Those stretches helped raise his season average to .261 with five homers, 52 RBIs and a league high-tying seven triples.
"It gave me a mental break," Wolters said. "It's a game. That's my job. You have to realize that. That week really put it in perspective for me."
Wolters spent that week watching from the dugout -- looking, listening and studying. He then worked hard just trying to relax and have fun playing the game. Wolters also incorporated more of a team mentality and wanted to make sure he fared better to help his teammates, which hadn't happened often in that first month.
"I came back with a clear mind," said Wolters, who leads the Mudcats with 114 hits and is tied for fourth with 52 RBIs. "It helped out. Every time I do strike out or make an error, I don't take it as hard. It's just a game."
The slow start also could have had something to do with the fact that Wolters skipped a level when he moved from the New York-Penn League to the Class A Advanced Carolina League -- never an easy task.
Mudcats manager Edwin Rodriguez said he's certainly noticed the difference in Wolters' play after the first month.
"He had a very tough first month," Rodriguez said. "But he turned it around. He made himself a better player. He made himself a better person."
Rodriguez also said Wolters, despite being so young, has grown into a quiet leader on the team, more proof that the hard work and changes were helpful. And even though Wolters certainly didn't enjoy battling through that first month, he gained from it.
"Every game was like a month for me, but I'm grateful for that," Wolters said. "When I'm struggling ... now I know how to get myself out of it. Instead of being a month, it will be a week next time."
First-place battle: Wilmington and Frederick are fighting for first in the Northern Division. The Blue Rocks hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Keys -- who have a game in hand -- through Tuesday's action. Lynchburg is right behind, two games out of first.
Back-to-back: Jeremy Nowak and Steve Bumbry both homered in the first inning of Frederick's 5-2 victory over Wilmington in their doubleheader opener Monday. The blasts came back to back and were the sixth of the season for both players.
Twice as nice: Cheslor Cuthbert and Angel Franco each had two hits during Wilmington's 10-run second inning against Lynchburg on Friday. Both players singled twice during the seven-hit frame, helping lead the Blue Rocks to an 11-1 rout over the Hillcats.