Pulling It Together

Bogusevic continues his difficult transition in Arizona

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Quick, think back to this time last year.

In presidential politics, Hillary Clinton appeared the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination, with Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani atop the Republican horse race. In baseball, the Red Sox were the kings of the major leagues.

And in the minors at the time, any observer would have had to look far and wide to find Astros 2005 first-round pick Brian Bogusevic, who was back home, focused on how to improve his pitching.

Yeah, that was sooooo 2007.

These days, Bogusevic has a spot in the Scottsdale Scorpions' lineup in the Arizona Fall League as the former Tulane two-way talent attempts to pull a Rick Ankiel and reach the majors as a lefthanded power hitter.

With the Astros having ended his pitching career in July and then Bogusevic having responded with a surprisingly strong showing at Double-A Corpus Christi, he's one of the fascinating storylines here in Arizona.

"If you think about this time last year, a lot of stuff has changed. But I'm happy with what's gone on out here," Bogusevic said.

Asked, then, about what he is working on specifically, Bogusevic grinned, "Geez, where do I begin?"

It might seem like he wouldn't need to overhaul anything but rather fine-tune a few small problematic areas. Like a lion attacking its prey, Bogusevic squelched most doubters by hitting a whopping .371/.447/.566 in 124 at-bats in the Texas League following a brief, crash course at high Class A Salem.

The numbers included 15 extra-base hits, including 10 doubles, and 20 RBIs.

But the reality is that the AFL, with its abundance of talent, has offered Bogusevic a greater challenge.

A tweaked hamstring on the first day of the season kept him out of the lineup until Oct. 18, and he has yet to bang the ball around the cavernous ballparks here, or take advantage of the 90-degree temps that make this a hitter's haven.

Through 23 at-bats with the Scottsdale Scorpions, he is hitting .391 and owns a .448 on-base percentage. But his slugging percentage is a mere .391.

Call it an adjustment period.

His tendency is to hit to the opposite field, with his handlers here imploring Bogusevic to turn on inside pitches. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he's got the size and strength to make it happen.

"Like a lot of these guys, it's a bit of an eye-opener with the talent that's assembled. He's fighting to find that consistency," Scottsdale manager Shane Turner said. "He's a good athlete and he really is interesting. There's no doubt about the athleticism. But you want him to make the adjustments."

Bogusevic's bat is his wild card, of course. Turner praised his speed in the outfield, as Bogusevic has made running catches in the gaps and has shown an accurate arm.

But the outfielder probably said it best when detailing the awkward road he must travel now, offering, "When a lot of guys spend (the winter) resting and recovering, I'm gong to have to get more reps. I'm three years of reps behind everybody. There's a lot of work to do."

Adding to the complexity of his situation is the fact that Bogusevic is up for 40-man consideration this year.

Having signed for $1.375 million, he was rarely dominant as a pitcher as his 88-91 mph fastball lacked life and he struggled to find a reliable breaking ball. In 88 innings this year at Corpus Christi, he was 2-6, 5.50 with almost as many walks (32) as strikeouts (34). He also had a penchant for the long ball, coughing up 15 home runs, and struggling to register groundball outs.

Bogusevic hinted that he would have preferred to finish the season on the mound but conceded that the conversion to the outfield creates a more realistic shot at reaching the majors.

His hitting coach at Corpus Christi, John Tamargo Jr., saw a lot of excitement in Bogusevic upon becoming an everyday player.

"I think this is the best thing for him," Tamargo said. "And he's very coachable. A great kid. During the game, he would ask questions. It was kind of a thing of letting him go out and play and see what he does."

Tamargo took note that Bogusevic can hit well the opposite way and is optimistic about his ability to pull pitches.

"That'll come with time with more at-bats," Tamargo said. "He's going to be good. He really stays inside the ball well."

Because the Astros made the decision in midseason, the organization got an expanded sneak peak at what Bogusevic could offer well ahead of the Arizona Fall League season. And because he played in the heat and draining humidity of Corpus Christi, he easily worked himself into shape.

Fortunately for the Astros, Bogusevic is taking his training a step further. To make himself ready for next season, Bogusevic already has moved from Chicago to Houston and plans to take part in workouts at Minute Maid Park.

"Hitting is something that, as much as you work at it, experience is still a huge factor," Bogusevic said. "You have to learn pitches and learn situations."

He is optimistic that his days as a pitcher will help in that regard.

"You don't know what the pitcher is going to throw. But you can identify a situation," he said. "If there's a man on third and they have the infield in, you know they want you to hit it on the ground. So you're looking for something up that you can hit into the outfield."

"The thing I have to work on is pulling the ball. I'm struggling with that right now," he added.