AFL Road Trip: Armstrong Works On Staying Back

PEORIA, Ariz. — At first glance, it would look like Cole Armstrong had a fairly decent season, what with a half season spent at Double-A Birmingham before he earned a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte.

But ask Armstrong about it, and the White Sox’s catching prospect thought it could have been a lot better. After all, he was a meager 10-for-65 down the stretch this year.

“The season was a good learning experience,” Armstrong said. “There were some pretty severe downs and pretty severe highs. There were two or three weeks where I would not square up any balls. And there were times when you don’t sleep because you start looking at your numbers.

“And it wears on you because this is your career you’re talking about.”

Armstrong should be sleeping much better these days as he tears through the Arizona Fall League.

Through Wednesday, the lefthanded hitter was batting .354/.415/.583 with three home runs, two doubles and 11 RBIs as a key figure for the Peoria Saguaros, a team featuring Cardinals 2008 first-round pick Brett Wallace and Padres first baseman Kyle Blanks.

Working with Double-A Springfield Cardinals and Saguaros manager Ron Warner and Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein, Armstrong is having success by staying back on the ball. He has had bad habits of getting out on his front foot, robbing the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder of his power.

“When he does that, he’s a dangerous power hitter,” Warner said. “When he stays behind it, he’s got more power. He’s been consistent the last couple of weeks.”

It was understandable that Armstrong had high expectations in 2008. The White Sox placed him on their 40-man roster last November, having acquired him in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft from the Braves in 2005, two years after Atlanta drafted the Canadian in the 16th round.

He hit .275/.310/.406 with two home runs, 12 doubles and 17 RBIs at Triple-A Charlotte, but struck out 27 times against five walks. He was 10-for-65 from Aug. 1 on, with 15 strikeouts and only one walk.

He had hit .252/.293/.413 with six home runs, 17 doubles and 31 RBIs in the Southern League.

“The consistency is not where I want it,” Armstrong said of his time so far in the AFL. “But by the time I leave, I hope it’s nothing I consciously think about, something I don’t have to think about all the mechanical flaws.”