Sunday, March 2, 2008

Stick Digs Shelley's Stylo

If you are a young ballplayer and Stick Michael pays you a compliment, you should be pretty excited. Shelley Duncan received such praise from the Yankees uber-scout in today's Bergen Record piece.
An hour before the Yankees' Grapefruit League opener, special adviser Gene Michael leaned against the first base dugout railing and proudly listed the attributes of one of his favorite players.

Shelley Duncan had been on Michael's radar since 2005, when he slugged 34 home runs for Class AA Trenton and showed a passion that was hard to describe in a scouting report.

When the Yankees finally called him up last summer, Duncan hit seven homers in 74 at-bats. "I even thought he should've played more," Michael said.

The article then discussed yesterday's exhibition game against the Phillies:

On his first swing, Duncan rocked a three-run homer off Philadelphia right-hander Adam Eaton. In his next at-bat, Duncan drilled one off the base of the left field fence, and hustled into second with a two-run double, thanks to a unique headfirst slide.

On his first play at first base, Duncan scooped a bad throw from second baseman Chris Woodward -- the first of three sharp moments in the field.

"He's fighting for the everyday first base job," manager Joe Girardi said, though Jason Giambi will be the starter if he's healthy -- a matter of constant concern. As a right-handed power hitter in a left-handed dominant lineup, Duncan could manage 400 at-bats as an outfielder, designated hitter and first baseman, but he never counts on anything.

That's why he tears out of the batter's box on routine grounders, something he displayed in his third at-bat. He was out on a close play, but, "you never know what's going to happen," Duncan said.

"I think he's athletic enough, with big power. He's selective at the plate, he runs well for a first baseman. ... I just get a nice feeling about him," said Michael, who believes Duncan can be "a pretty good defensive player," in the outfield or at first base. "I haven't seen him do anything wrong."
"Shelley's going to give you everything he's got every moment," [manager Joe] Girardi said. "He's shown he can perform at a high level here," which included two hits in four AL Division Series at-bats as a substitute.
The fast start to Duncan's season is nice to look at, but it is the praise of Michael and Girardi - not homeruns in March - which should have Yankee fans excited. Duncan has a lot to prove, particularly defensively at first base, before he can be considered an everyday option for New York. However, it won't be for a lack of drive or confidence.

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