Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench famously said that “Slumps are like a soft bed. They’re easy to fall into and hard to get out of.”
Lars Anderson can identify.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
After going 0-for-4 in Friday’s 2-1 loss to Columbus, the PawSox first baseman is hitless in his last 29 at-bats. His batting average in 44 games with Pawtucket has dipped below the Uecker Line at .199.
If you’ve never heard me discuss it on the radio, I go with the Uecker Line instead of the Mendoza Line since the immortal Bob Uecker batted exactly .200 in his big league career. Mario Mendoza finished his career at a robust .215.
After striking out in his first two at-bats on Friday, Anderson hit the ball well in his last two trips to the plate. In the 6th inning he hit a screaming line drive over the first base bag that probably would have been a double, but it came with Columbus first baseman Wes Hodges holding a runner, and he didn’t have to budge to make the catch. In the 9th inning, Anderson flied out to the warning track in left (a Wall Ball at Fenway).
As a result, Lars has gone eight games without a hit.
“Not to be unexpected,” PawSox manager Torey Lovullo told me. “I think a lot of young players have good and bad moments. I think Lars is experiencing that wave of emotion where he’s trying to go out there and do too much every single day. We have to understand that there are going to be some struggles for a young player. He will go through some growing pains this year and learn from this. When he is a great big leaguer, he will use this year as a reference – I’m certain of that. He’ll say, ‘I learned those lessons when I was 22 years old,’ and that’s what is going to make him special many years down the road.”
Lovullo speaks from experience. In 1989 after he excelled in spring training with the Detroit Tigers, Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson called Torey “the finest young player I’ve seen since Johnny Bench.”
Anderson made Lovullo his starting first baseman on Opening Day and told reporters that “I’ll die before he comes out of the lineup.”
Lovullo began the season 0-for-20 and was out of the lineup by May.
It wasn’t the last slump of his career and Torey says that one of the biggest lessons he had to learn was to ignore the well-intended suggestions of teammates and friends.
“Keith Moreland told me once to pick up the bat that is the most uncomfortable in your hands and you are guaranteed to get two hits,” Lovullo said. “Well, I got two hits but it took me about three weeks because I had this bat in my hands that felt like a lead weight. Everybody wants to help. I think the bottom line is that you have to have some fundamental beliefs and know that you don’t have to change. That’s what Lars is going to remember.”
As soon as he climbs out of that soft bed.
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The PawSox host Columbus on Saturday at 6:05. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 5:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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