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A notorious slow starter, Moncrief still positive as June arrives

A notorious slow starter, Moncrief still positive as June arrives
Carlos Moncrief (Photo: Brittany Chay)
June 2, 2014
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If you’re looking for someone with a contagious attitude, look no further than outfielder Carlos Moncrief.

The native Mississippian has a trademark grin that shows up in the outfield and in the batter’s box, and it’s pretty easy to see why.

Moncrief has been with the Indians organization since 2008. Back then he wasn’t the outfielder that fans in Columbus get to see daily, but actually a right-handed reliever. He pitched in just nine games, and a 6.51 ERA the next year led to Moncrief advocating for a switch to the outfield.

Since then he’s climbed up the Indians minor league system, with his breakthrough year coming last season at Double-A Akron when he hit .284 with 17 homers and 75 RBI.

Now at Triple-A Columbus, Moncrief is batting .238 and said there have definitely been some differences he’s had to get used to while playing at a higher level.

“The pitching is different. I won’t say it’s better; it’s just better in a different type of way. They’re smarter; they don’t really give in as much as Double-A,” Moncrief said. “In Double-A I came with a lot of prospects and here you’ve got people who played in the big leagues, and they have a different mentality and go about their business differently. So that’s the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make, just to find myself within everything else that goes on.”

Moncrief has been hitting regularly for almost five seasons – not quite the same amount as those other players he’s competing against. That’s more time for them to improve their mechanics and adapt to high-level pitching, meaning he might take a bit longer to get to their level. But he doesn’t see it like that.

“I wouldn’t look at it necessarily as catching up it’s just, for myself, I would say I’ve come to an understanding of who I am as a hitter,” Moncrief said.  “I wouldn’t say (it’s about) catching up with people because everybody figures things out at a different pace. So (I’m focused on) understanding myself and what I’m trying to do and what I know I’m capable of and what I’ve done in the past and bringing it to the present.”

The outfielder has taken that mantra to heart. He said that he’s trying to absorb everything possible to make him the player he believes he should be.

“I think (my evolution as a hitter) has gone well,” Moncrief said.  “I’m learning everyday pretty much. Everyday is a learning experience in life and in baseball. With the help of my hitting coach Jimmy (Rickon)…I think I’ve come a long way from when I think back to 2010 when I first started. I thought it was going to be easy. I was like ‘I know how to hit, I can do this.’ But no, I’ve come a long way since then, I can say that.”

The hours of practice with the coaching staff have been filled with things he’s trying to remember, the basis for how he’s trying to improve as a hitter.

“I’m simply just trying to relax and trust everything that I’ve been working on over these past years,” Moncrief said. “And in my mind just understanding (how to not) make the game hard in my head as a hitter.”

That trust and relaxation Moncrief strives toward has come gradually over the past couple seasons. Although his numbers last year were impressive overall, he didn’t really hit his stride until the middle of the season. Moncrief hit .370 in June and .317 in July, while April saw him at a .241 clip.

Things have come relatively the same this season. The first month of the season ended with a .240 average, but although his overall numbers for the month of May are roughly the same, Moncrief hit .293 with 17 hits in 16 games during the end of the month.

Moncrief can’t really explain the phenomenon, but he did mention that some advice from Nyjer Morgan earlier in the season that he’s taken to heart.

“He was pretty much saying how every month will get better,” Moncrief noted.  “Don’t panic, pretty much. And it was pretty much around the same time last year I started getting more comfortable and relaxing at the plate. I mean, I guess it just happened to me like that just because we’re creatures of habit. I don’t know the real reason why it’s like that, but I guess since it’s June I guess it might be time. As of right now, I just want to stay relaxed, take it one day at a time and don’t panic. That’s it.”

Those last three points are central to Moncrief’s game, which means that there isn’t really a plateau he’s trying to reach. In his relaxed, informative style, Moncrief explained exactly what he wants to do this season.

“I’m just trying to continue to improve,” Moncrief said.  “I never really necessarily set goals because we don’t know the future. It’s not even guaranteed that I’ll be alive tomorrow [laughs] so as far setting goals, yeah I’ve got goals as far as trying to live my life right and stuff like that or just trying to play the game hard. But as far as having a specific amount of home runs or average or stuff like that, I just take it one day at a time, one AB at a time, one pitch at a time. Whatever it is at the end is what it is. (I) can’t go back and change it, can’t go forward and see it, so I’ll just take it one day at a time.”

From a pitcher in 2009 to impressive hitter in 2014, with more focus and hard work, who knows how far Carlos Moncrief can go.

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