Saturday, March 06, 2010

Chris Duncan--Lightning In His Bat

“He’s got lightning in his bat," firmly stated Rick Eckstein. "It is going to be interesting to see if some of that stuff we think is there is going to show up.” Our Washington Nationals Batting Coach was discussing Non-Roster Invitee Chris Duncan. Once a rising star in The St. Louis Cardinals organization, a neck injury and other ailments have set back this lefty slugger the past two years. Now, after being traded to The Boston Red Sox and released in 2009, the soon to be 29-year old is looking for a chance to redeem himself.

“It was a little bit difficult leaving The Cardinals with my dad (Dave--long time respected pitching coach) still there," says Chris Duncan. "But it was time for me to move on. Even The Red Sox gave me a chance to play in Pawtucket for a little bit, and I didn’t play well. That’s all on me. So, I am actually excited for a new opportunity and I really like it over here. I am comfortable with everything going on around me. Hopefully, I can make the best of my chances. The Nationals are giving me a shot to come back. What more can I ask for?”

In Spring Training Camp for Washington, Duncan is no longer solely playing the outfield. Our Manager has Chris taking grounders at first base. A position Jim Riggleman believes better suits his game: "He’s probably not played much first base in the big leagues, except for maybe a few innings. But he was primarily a first baseman originally. Then, they (The Cardinals) moved him to the outfield because--in St. Louis--Albert Pujols was playing first. So, we made him an outfielder. His natural position is first base, more so than outfield.”

Riggleman should know because when Chris Duncan made the jump from AAA Memphis to The St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, Jim was The Cardinals' Minor League Field Coordinator. A coaching job that allowed Our Manager to see all that Duncan had to offer early in his career with that strong bat: "He’s got a pretty swing. He’s just had a few injuries that have undermined his ability to play. I know there was some confusion these past few years whether he should have been on the disabled list or should he have played? That all just took away from his game.”

Interestingly, previous connections had a lot to do with Duncan signing with Washington this past off-season. From his years with The Cardinals, Chris is familiar with not only Riggleman, but Eckstein and First Base Coach Dan Radison. He likes the fit here and jumped at the opportunity to play for D.C. because Washington Baseball Management told him he will competing for a roster spot.

"I am not making any excuses for how I played the past two years. This is where I am now. I hope to stay healthy so I can come out and play well this year, something I haven’t done the past two. Now, I am not sure where I might fit in here. But if I play hard, take good at-bats and play wherever they want to play me--I can help them out--definitely.”

But can Our Washington Nationals straighten Chris Duncan out?

Rick Eckstein says the answer is yes: "We’ve tried to work on his positioning to where he understands himself a little better. And we are trying to recapture some of the little things he did well early in his career. He’s showing some very, very good signs. He’s gotten to that point where when we are into games--we hope to see that lightning back into his bat more consistently, again."

Duncan Photo Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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