View Full Version : Lubanski Article from Wichita Eagle

04-27-2006, 07:17 AM
He's been kind of the third wheel at Wichita so far this year. I've seen lots of stuff on Butler and Gordon (who are both tearing it up early at Double A Wichita), not so much on Lubanski. So here we go:

Wranglers' Lubanski heating up
The Wichita Eagle
Well before the Wranglers' season started, center fielder Chris Lubanski's name was mentioned as being part of the future of the Kansas City Royals.

Understandably so.

He's a former first-round pick, taken fifth in the 2003 draft, and is rated the Royals' fourth-best prospect by Baseball America. He had big numbers at Class A High Desert last season, hitting 28 home runs and a league-leading 116 RBIs.

He has size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and speed (he had 30 stolen bases in the past two seasons).

Despite the expectations, Lubanski started slowly, going 4 for 44 in his first 12 games, a span that included a 1-for-26 slump and five straight games without a hit.

But he shrugged it off and has been on fire since.

Lubanski has a seven-game hitting streak and is 13 for 27 (.481) in that span. The Wranglers open a seven-game homestand tonight.

"The first 12 games, yeah, it was 'Wow, (I'm only hitting) .081,' " said Lubanski, in his third season in the minors. "But I knew there were still 130 more games to play. I'll play in most of them.

"I'm not going to finish the season at .081. I knew how my at-bats were going, and I knew it would eventually pick up."

He never gave into the frustration of the slump, even though he knows the Royals organization and fans are keeping close eyes on him.

Lubanski's ability to handle the situation is largely due to his personality. He's not the type to boil over when things get tough.

"The good thing with him is he's an even-minded guy," Wranglers manager Frank White said. "He comes to play every day, and he's taken it without getting emotionally and mentally down."

Lubanski simply kept working at improving his skills, always knowing he would eventually improve.

After all, he'd started slowly before.

Last April he hit .160 in High Desert before raising his average to .301 by season's end. He also struggled early in Burlington in 2004 when he hit .275 the first half, .315 the second.

"I turn it on after April," he said. "It takes me an extra month to adjust."

It's not an easy transition from High Desert, which is in a hitter's league, to Double-A.

Double-A pitchers are more skilled, smarter and don't give in to hitters. So instead of getting pitches to hit, Lubanski's learned he might not get the kind of pitch he wants at all.

"They're not afraid to walk you; they don't give you much to hit; and they touch the zone here and there," Lubanski said.

"You have to be really patient and focus on getting your pitch to hit. I just have to battle because I may not get a good pitch to hit the whole game."

As he worked to adjust his game, his average continued its freefall -- it reached .081 on April 16. Yet Lubanski never felt overmatched at the plate.

He's walked 11 times and has struck out 13. For a guy who has 235 strikeouts over the past two seasons, that's improvement.

Just as important, he was hitting the ball well; the ball just wasn't falling in the gaps.

"There were a couple times where I'd hit the ball hard, but right to someone," Lubanski said. "That's part of the game, but it's tough to do early in the season. You do that in the middle of the season and you can't really tell. But to start off that way, it was glaring."

So he started to look for positives anywhere he could find them. If he had a good batting practice, that's what he focused on. If he hit the ball hard in a game, he felt good.

And he spent additional time with Wranglers hitting coach Al LeBoeuf.

"I was kind of reaching out to the ball," Lubanski said. "I've been relaxing a little bit more up there, not trying to jump at the ball.

"That's the biggest adjustment, focus on letting it come in. It lets me see the ball a lot longer and lets me get my bat on the ball."

White and LeBoeuf also wanted him to work on his swing.

"We're just trying to get him to keep his weight on the backside and rotate from there," White said.

"... When he does things right, the ball jumps off his bat. On his homers, he's driven it well. He's a big guy and a powerful guy."

It was after meeting with LeBoeuf last week that his patience at the plate improved.

And on April 19 at Springfield, Lubanski found his stroke. He singled in his first at-bat, doubled and then singled again.

"That opened the floodgate a little bit," Lubanski said. "I got more confidence because I knew I could do it. I felt good up there. I felt I was getting a good pitch every at-bat."

And that batting average? It's up to a respectable .239.