Mike Costanzo hit his fourth home run of the season in Double-A Reading’s 4-1 win against Harrisburg, but there are some issues the 23-year-old is going through.
With seven errors through 17 games, Costanzo is the no-so proud owner of an .891 fielding percentage. The funny thing is, Costanzo’s fielding has gotten better. Those seven errors came in his first 11 games and included a stretch where he made five miscues total on back-to-back days.
The 2005 second-round pick out of Coastal Carolina lost 15 pounds in the offseason, and has been put under a rigorous stretching program by the Phillies’ trainers to become more flexible.
Basically, Costanzo is still learning how to play with what he refers to as his ‘new body.’
“Iâ€™ve been getting stretched into a pretzel by our trainers for almost a month now,” Costanzo said. “I just have to get used to everything. I was stiff before, but now I can do things . . . itâ€™s just unbelievable. I just have to get used to this body.”
The biggest adjustment has come defensively, as Costanzo is primarily focused on loosening up his hips. The third baseman is much quicker now that he was even a year ago, so it’s been a matter of re-learning muscle memory and realizing the difference in his footwork as well. It’s paying off, however.
Costanzo made a brilliant play over the weekend, diving back and to his right to knock down a hard-hit ground ball. He gathered himself, picked the ball up and threw out the runner by a step.
“I think heâ€™s moving a lot better,” R-Phils manager P.J. Forbes said. “From spring training to now, I think heâ€™s moving real well. A couple of his errors I think are mentalâ€”-just carrying his hitting over into the field with him.
“For me, itâ€™s about getting him reps and having him out there every day. If he makes the routine play heâ€™s going to be fine. I told him just to catch the ball. Heâ€™s got a great arm, he just needs to let it work. If he can catch the ball and do his footwork heâ€™s going to be fine. The thing about him is heâ€™s got a short memory, heâ€™s a tireless worker, so whatever happened yesterday is over withâ€”heâ€™s ready to start fresh every day.”
The new hip flexibility has also affected Costanzo at the plate. Though he might never hit for a high average, he’s hitting just .246/.300/.462 in 65 at-bats, his calling card will be his plus power from the left side of the plate and as the top defender in the organization.
“Because it changes up my flexibility and my level of sight and everything, and my timing big time–I have a lot more time now–it’s going to take time to get used to,” Costanzo said. “Before I kind of had to rush a little, but I donâ€™t have to do that anymore.
“As an organization, our saying during spring training was ‘The road to success is always under construction.’ I believe in that 100 percent. We did some stuff hitting, too, for more consistency and more rhythm too just to help my timing out with the new hips I have now.”
Adds Forbes: “He’s a work in progress kind of re-learning his body and what it can do. Heâ€™s able to make moves with his lower half now that he wasnâ€™t able to do in the past. I think timing-wise heâ€™s probably off a little bit. Itâ€™s going to click and when it does, look out.”
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