Ready to take next step?

  • By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
  • Sunday, March 27, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

PEORIA, Ariz. — During the winter when Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge studied reports on the team he was about to inherit, one player confounded him.

Wedge watched video of 26-year-old catcher Adam Moore and saw two different players.

At Class AAA Tacoma, Moore maintained a consi

stent approach as a hitter, laying off unhittable pitches, working good ball-strike counts and driving the baseball. But when Wedge looked at Moore’s at-bats from the 60 games he played for the Mariners, he saw a hitter who swung at bad pitches and essentially got himself out.

“What I saw was

a guy doing those things at the Triple-A level, but it didn’t translate to the big-league level,” Wedge said.

After more than six weeks of spring training, Moore has been a player who seems ready to take an important step forward in his career — a step beyond the previous big-league stints that never quite lived up to expectations.

“He’s come a long way,” Wedge said. “He’s really gotten after it behind the plate from a catching standpoint, and he’s done a fantastic job this spring at the plate. We’ve seen more quality at-bats. We’ve seen him do a better job of utilizing the field and not trying to do too much.”

Moore was a .300 hitter at every minor league level he played, yet when he reached the big leagues he tried to become something more turned into something much less.

“Every night I was going up there putting bad swings on balls, swinging at pitches completely out of the strike zone, hacking early in the count at pitches I couldn’t handle,” he said. “Who I was last year wasn’t me until the last two weeks of the season.”

He batted .357 with the Mariners in his final eight games last September after enduring a 3-for-46 stretch earlier in the month. Moore has continued to hit well at spring training and says he’s in a better place mentally than ever. He’s batting .303 in 15 exhibition games.

“Now, I have all the confidence in the world in my swing and I’m going to continue to stay with this approach,” he said. “Where I’m at now, it’s a 360 degree turnaround.”

The problem with Moore’s two-week spurt of hitting last year is that it was only two weeks. The Mariners went into the offseason uneasy with him as their No. 1 catcher, and they signed veteran free agent Miguel Olivo to a two-year, $7 million contract.

Moore took it as a challenge and not an insult.

“What I did offensively last year, I expected something to happen,” he said. “I knew they would go out and get a catcher, whether it was Miguel or somebody else. I didn’t get the job done last year, but that was last year. I’m going to continue to battle and work hard each and every day. My mindset is the same and I’ve got a lot more confidence going into the season.”

It has taken a while — longer than Moore would have imagined — to reach this point.

He has long been on the Mariners’ radar as the catching prospect to watch in the Mariners’ system, especially in 2009 when he batted .294 with nine home runs and 43 RBI in 91 games after being promoted to Class AAA Tacoma.

The Mariners called him up that September and it was ,well, an introduction. He batted only .217 in six games, although that included a four-game stretch when he went 5-for-14 with a home run.

He went into last season alongside Rob Johnson as the Mariners’ two-man catching tandem. The idea was to play each of them until one proved he deserved more of the playing time.

Moore struggled from the beginning before suffering a left leg injury that landed him on the disabled list and, once he was healthy, back at Tacoma for 36 games. He batted .321 with the Rainiers, but after being recalled by the Mariners on Aug. 3 he struggled again at the big-league level.

It wasn’t until mid-September when Moore found himself at the plate.

“It took me a while,” he said. “The last two weeks of the season, the way I was swinging the bat at the end of the year, that’s who I am — a gap-to-gap hitter. I’ve always understood my swing and understood what I can and can’t hit. But to discipline yourself night in and night out, every single day you’re behind the plate, it took me a little bit. But now, the way I feel at the plate, I know that’s who I am. I’m going to continue to stay with this approach.

“I learned a ton last year from failing, but at the same time from succeeding. I’m going to bring all that confidence into this season for sure.”

Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog and follow his Twitter updates on the team at @kirbyarnold.

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