Smoak and Ryan back in, Wedge looks for progress

Apr 30, 2012, 5:49 PM

By Shannon Drayer

Justin Smoak and Brendan Ryan are back in the lineup tonight after their “mental days” off. Both are struggling mightily, both are engaged in different offensive struggles. Both have had the support of their manager through their struggles.

“You see a little progress with Ryan and Smoak, something that doesn’t show up on the baseball field right away, but you see things happening that is eventually going to lead them to success.”

We have seen Wedge handle his young players in the media. He is not one to pile on when numbers tell the story. He knows some of his players are struggling and they certainly know as well. I asked Wedge how he balances taking care of the kid versus knowing when he may need to kick them in the butt.

“Some guys aren’t to that point yet of the conversation,” he answered. “It has just got to be feel as a staff, understanding where they are, where we are in the season, but usually at some point in time you have to have a heart to heart and help them get a little bit further down the road.”

Wedge said it wasn’t uncommon to have to have a butt kicking or heart to heart with a young player at the right time. How common?

“I would say with 50-60 percent of those young kids (in his time in Cleveland) you have to have in some point in time have a talk. A serious heart to heart,” he said. “Where they are, where they could be or where they want to go and how to get there and then you hope they get it. You hope the light goes on.”

One player that the light appears to have come on with is Michael Saunders. With everything that Saunders put into working with his swing this off season, the hitting coach, the rubber bands, the weighted bats, ultimately Wedge believes that the biggest improvement came in his mindset.

“At some point in time you have to recognize the fact that it is time to perform,” he said. “It is not about potential or the future, it is about now. But he has to come to that realization. He can be told, you can direct them but ultimately he has to come to that realization himself and come out there and live it and that is what he has been doing.”

Saunders commented earlier this year that he hates the word potential. “I’ve really grown to dislike that word because it just means you are not getting it done now,” he told me.

Potential, a word that he had heard for years attached to his name became both a negative word and a driving force for him. With his back against the wall and being close to being out of chances he figured it out. Perhaps a few “heart to hearts” with Wedge in the near future will push a couple others in the same direction.

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