Heathcott Heating Up

Heathcott is batting .359 in his last 19 games

TRENTON, NJ - One of the biggest challenges for Slade Heathcott in 2013 is to find consistency and a rhythm with the Double-A Trenton Thunder. He batted .191 in April, .277 in May, and .220 in June. However, the month of July has brought fireworks to both his ball club and himself.

With his 3-7 performance in Tuesday's double-header, Heathcott has now hit safely in 19 of his last 21 games dating back to the end of June, and has raised his overall batting average from .236 to .264 in that time span. With his natural tools and abilities, hitting coach Justin Turner wasn't surprised Heathcott has been able to figure things out.

"It's kind of what you expect with a guy of his ability," Turner said. "He was too talented of a player to be struggling the way he was. He's starting to understand things a little bit better because he's getting more at-bats and getting more comfortable. Its really just the at-bats and swinging at better pitches."

He credits a lot of his success to the positive energy that the team has had throughout the past few weeks.

"We've been playing really well as a team," Heathcott said. "Everybody has been hitting, everything has been seeming better, and when you have guys hitting around you, hits are contagious. I'm just learning things and trying to go through the process you learn as a hitter, and trying to keep it simple."

With the roller coaster-like inconsistencies throughout the season, it has been difficult to get a sense of how much progress the highly touted prospect has made, but with his production in these past few weeks, coaches have praised the hard work paying off.

"It's a remarkable turnaround," Thunder manager Tony Franklin said. "It takes young players and first year players at this level a while to make some adjustments, figure out how pitchers are trying to pitch them, and it's a big deal.

"Then you've got the chance to see yourself on film, go back and recount the pitches in at-bats you've had. What would I have done differently, and did I get myself out? I think Slade's starting to make those adjustments now."

Playing with the Trenton Thunder for an entire year has also helped him get used to the competition in the league and the pitchers he faces night in and night out.

"Getting to know these pitchers tendencies helps a lot," Heathcott said. "Some of them change though. They are going through the same things that we are, and they haven't established themselves anymore than we have. So they still have their tendencies, but they certainly change it up a little bit, and the main thing is still staying calm and seeing good pitches."

Putting him second in the batting order on a nightly basis now has Heathcott back in a role where he can thrive in between top prospects Ramon Flores and Tyler Austin [although Austin is on the DL now]. He has made his share of adjustments throughout the year to adapt to being a top-of-the-order guy.

"He's been hitting second for quite a while now, and at one point in the season we had him hitting sixth," Franklin said. "We've been putting him back up in the order.

"When you make those changes, you generally move him down to take a little bit of the pressure off of him when you've got him thinking a little too much. Maybe the at-bats are coming a little too quick for him. He's starting to swing the bat well and we've gotten him in the second spot for a while now."

At one point in the season, Heathcott once stated that he was having as many as ten swing thoughts while up at the plate. Now it's all about keeping it simple and relaxing.

"We really try to minimize the thoughts up there and that's important," Turner said. "Its hard enough to hit with a clear head, and when you're battling against yourself, you're fighting a losing battle when you do that.

"We're just trying to simplify the thoughts, get a good pitch, and think that you're better than the pitcher. And I'll take him over anybody that they put out there."

The hard work Heathcott has put in throughout the season is paying off and he's very content with the progress he's made lately.

"It's just about being comfortable," Heathcott said. "I've been definitely trying to stick with one thing and figure that out. I'm swinging at better pitches, being more patient, and not trying to do too much with one swing.

"It's about going from point A to point B, pitch to pitch, trying to figure out something every at-bat to see the ball better, and just keep putting good contact on it."

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