It's always a tough transition for a player to move from Double-A to Triple-A.
For a catcher, it's even tougher. Just ask Los Angeles Angels prospect Hank Conger, who moved up to Triple-A Salt Lake this season.
"I think the biggest difference is when I'm behind the plate," he said. "Now in Triple-A, you've got guys who have been in the big leagues; you see a lot of veteran guys. You've got to stick with your gameplan and the scouting reports.
"It's a little different when you're hitting [too]. It's what you expect when you move up a level. The style of pitching has been different, lots of 3-1 changeups, 3-1 breaking balls."
The 22-year-old Conger has held his own so far, batting .302 (16-for-53) with two homers, four RBIs and nine runs scored. He entered the 2009 season as the No. 1 prospect in the organization, according to Baseball America.
"I've always tried to take pride in trying to become a better hitter each year," said Conger, a switch hitter. "One of the toughest things for a Minor Leaguer to do is move up a level and try to perform. The pitching is always getting better. Everyone is slowly starting to find out your strengths and weaknesses. I feel like there's a lot more work to do."
Conger is also focused on improving his defense behind the plate.
"I think the No. 1 thing I'm really trying to stress is understanding the mental part of it, whether it's pitch-calling or handling the staff," Conger said. "Physical errors are going to happen, but for me to knock down mental errors behind the plate is my No. 1 goal."
Conger had it rough in his first three seasons after being drafted by the Angels in the first round in 2006. He battled through injuries, playing just 84 games at Class A Cedar Rapids in 2007 and 73 games at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga in 2008.
Still, the Angels did not shy away from moving Conger one step up the Minor League ladder every year.
"For them to fully support me through the injuries and all that, it makes me feel better about myself," he said.
A native of Huntington Beach, Calif., Conger said the chance to someday play for the team he grew up rooting for would inspire a familiar phrase.
"It's a cliche, but it would be a dream come true," Conger said. "Ever since I was younger when I got scouted by different teams in high school, I didn't think there was even a possibility for me to play for the Angels. They're always stockpiled at catcher. When I got drafted, it was one of the greatest days for me. To someday play in Anaheim in front of my parents and friends will be incredible."
Iowa: Right-hander Jay Jackson (2-1) dominated the Sounds in Nashville last Monday, tossing eight shutout innings while allowing just two hits and a walk. The Cubs prospect only struck out four batters, but he still made quick work of Nashville, needing just 86 pitches over the eight innings.
Oklahoma City: First baseman Chris Davis made an immediate impact Saturday after being reassigned to the RedHawks by the Texas Rangers on Thursday. Davis hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning that ended up giving the RedHawks the runs they needed to hold off Memphis, 8-7.
Colorado Springs: Shortstop Warren Schaeffer has made the most of his first Triple-A opportunity, batting .348 (7-for-23) with a home run and seven RBIs in nine games with the Sky Sox. Schaeffer hit just .218 at Class A Advanced Modesto last season, but he earned a promotion when the Rockies' Minor League infielders were struck by a rash of injuries.
Fresno: Left-hander Madison Bumgarner eased some worries last Monday as the Giants' top pitching prospect allowed just one earned run over six innings. Bumgarner had entered the start with a 14.14 ERA after giving up 11 runs over seven innings in his first two starts for the Grizzlies. He then earned his first win of the season on Sunday with five solid innings in Portland.