SURPRISE, Ariz.–A third baseman since signing as a 2003 first-round pick, Eric Duncan has played five games at first base and taken extra work there almost every day during his stay in the Arizona Fall League.
And while Duncan had never played first base in his career, the
reason for the parent New York Yankees’ experimentation comes into
focus in the time it takes to say “Alex Rodriguez.”
“They are kind of blocked at third base, to put it lightly,” Duncan said with a chuckle.
“But like I’ve always said, my next at-bat is tough enough, and my
next ground ball is tough enough, that I can’t be thinking about the
future. I am just thinking about my next game.”
Duncan, 20, has embraced the opportunity to expand his resume, as
his early numbers indicate –he was hitting .378-7-22 in 74 at-bats for
Grand Canyon, leading the league in slugging percentage (.784) while
ranking second to Phoenix’s Brandon Wood (Angels) in home runs and
RBIs. His nine doubles also rank second.
Duncan still spends the majority of time at third base but works
with the coaching staff on footwork, positioning and technique in
pregame sessions at first, a position that he believes does not get
“Everybody downplays it, saying it’s the easiest position on the
field, but there is a lot to it,” said Duncan, the 27th player in the
2003 draft out of Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, N.J.
“There is a lot going on with your feet, and where to play depending
on who is at bat. It is a lot different than I thought it would be. I
work at it every day, just trying to figure out as much as possible.”
He has it figured out at the plate after batting .235/.326/.408 at
Trenton, his first season at Double-A after spending only a half-season
at high Class A Tampa in 2004.
“There were just some things I needed to start thinking about at the
plate,” said Duncan of the checklist he has during his at-bats.
“Tinkering with a few things, nothing drastic. I figured out something
in my own head that makes sense to me. It gives my a rhythm and lets me
do what I need to do to be successful.”
Duncan entered 2005 with .273/.359/.472 career numbers in two
seasons, and while his 19 home runs this season were a career high, his
average dipped to a career low. That led some to wonder if the Yankees
had moved him up the ladder too quickly. Duncan had no complaints about
the rapid advance.
“I’m most definitely comfortable with everything,” he said. “There
were things that I wasn’t happy with last year, but there were a lot of
things I was happy with. Overall I could have had a better year, but I
think that is an excuse if someone says they are pushing me too quick.
“If the Yankees want to push me, that’s because I think I can handle
it. It was a huge boost to my confidence that they sent me there. There
were definitely positives. I got to play with great competition,
against guys who had played Triple-A and the big leagues. I learned a
lot playing with those guys.”
• Peoria Javelinas’ outfielder Val Majewski (Orioles) hit his
first home run of the 2005 season Thursday, helping the Javelinas to an
8-3 victory over Mesa. Majewski, who also had two singles and two RBIs,
missed the entire summer season after surgery to repair a torn left
labrum in March. He hit .307-15-80 at Double-A Bowie in 2004, when he
also had a brief big league callup.
• Surprise third baseman Alex Gordon (Royals) hit his first professional home run Thursday after joining the AFL on Oct. 15.
• Peoria Javelinas first baseman Michael Johnson (Padres) hit
three home runs in a seven-inning, 8-4 victory over Surprise in the
first game of a makeup doubleheader Tuesday. He had 21 homers in 73
games at Lake Elsimore this season.
• Phoenix righthander Wade Townsend (Devil Rays), the eighth
player taken in the 20004 and 2005 drafts, was shut down last week
because of arm tenderness. Townsend, who didn’t sign with the Orioles
in ’04 and did not pitch as a senior at Rice, made 12 appearances, 10
starts, for short-season Hudson Valley, going 0-4, 5.39 in 39 1-3
innings before being sent to the AFL in an attempt to get more innings.