COLUMBUS, OH - Brent Abernathy, now in his 11th season of professional baseball, is struggling to find his old form at the plate. Known for his glove and range in the infield, Abernathy has surprised even himself by his lack of hitting and run support. Although hits have been hard to come by, the veteran has found his way onto the lineup card due to his error-free and versatile defense.
Brent Abernathy has had his fare share of experiences throughout his baseball career. Selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round of the 1996 draft, Abernathy’s dream had become a reality. Since that time though, Abernathy has had to pick up and move many times. In all, Abernathy has been among 13 different squads ranging from Single-A to the Major Leagues. He has had fairly decent stints in the majors with Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Minnesota.
“The longer you have been around, you find out real quick how different organizations do things,” said Abernathy. “At the same time, most of the organizations are the same in that if you go out and produce on the field and do well, then everything will be alright. A lot of times you can’t worry about what organizations you are with. You have to take care of your own business. If I play well, then things will take care of themselves.”
In his past two seasons, Abernathy has suited up for three different teams and played in three different leagues. Now with the Columbus Clippers this season, Abernathy is starting to settle down with his new organization.
“The transition was a little rough at first,” Abernathy said. “I wasn’t expecting to get traded, especially so early in the season. It took me some time to get adjusted to a new manager and new players that I didn’t have the opportunity to be with in spring training. It took me some time but this is a good group of guys and things are starting to settle down now in mid-season.”
Through the first 57 games played with Columbus this season, Abernathy is batting .249 (49-for-197) with 19 runs scored. He has 17 RBIs while posting a .300 on-base percentage. Abernathy has shifted around in the lineup and now finds himself at the two spot. Although he is not hitting as good as he would like, Abernathy wants to find holes in the infield and start driving in runs to help the ball club.
When asked about his approach at the plate, Abernathy told CapitolDugout.com, “My approach has always been to put the ball in play, spread the ball around the field and do the little things to score runs, such as moving guys over or bunting. I am not the guy that is going to hit a lot of home runs or drive in a lot of runs but I would like to think I have a hand in the runs we score. My main focus in the cage or when I am doing my workouts is making hard contact. Once I see the ball in a game situation, I look to hit it hard somewhere.”
Although his plate production has been lacking, Abernathy finds comfort in his defensive abilities. Primarily known as a second baseman, Abernathy has shown his versatility playing in other positions this season. He has played 16 games at first base, 22 games at second base and 15 games at third base. His versatility and range has helped the depleted roster fill spots. The Clippers have faced many transactions, call-ups, injuries, and poor performances. Abernathy has stepped in and provided a reliable glove all around the infield.
“As a player, you always try and improve,” Abernathy told CapitolDugout. “It doesn’t matter how good or how bad things are going in this game because things can change in a hurry. You always look to improve everywhere. I am feeling confident and comfortable playing first base and third base. Hopefully now that we are short a couple outfielders, I might get an opportunity to play there too. I am just trying to be as good as I can anywhere I am playing that particular day.”
Abernathy isn’t hiding his disgust regarding his performance through the first part of the season. He has set high goals for himself and feels he is not performing like the old Brent Abernathy did just a few years ago. In 2005, he started the season with Rochester, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. During his time with Rochester, he batted .326 (70-for-215) in 57 games played. Once Abernathy gets his swing adjusted and finds his groove at the plate, the veteran can further help the Clippers produce runs more than just being relied upon for defense.
“Defensively, I feel I have done fine,” said Abernathy, commenting on his performance thus far. “I have played a bunch of different positions pretty well. Offensively, it hasn’t been what I am capable of doing. I feel like I haven’t swung the bat very well. At the same time, when I feel I have swung the bat good, I haven’t got much out of it. I take pride in swinging the bat and helping our team score runs and I haven’t done that. Hopefully the second half of the season I will do a lot better and be a little more like myself at the plate.”
Abernathy’s game in nearly complete. Although he feels he can always improve defensively, he has already proven to be a reliable force behind his pitching staff. He has only committed five errors on the season. As his bat develops and production increases, Abernathy could earn a trip back to the majors.
“The major thing I need to do is hit,” Abernathy explained when asked about what he needs to do to get a call up. “Plain and simple, I need to hit to have a chance to get called up. I have always been an offensive player and I have not helped our team score runs in the first part of this season. As long as I swing the bat and help our team offensively, it will take care of itself.”