Escalona Knows His Offense Is Key

Escalona has just two multi-hit games this year

Playing behind a future hall-of-famer can shake the confidence of a minor league veteran. Columbus Clippers shortstop Felix Escalona, 27, is in a very similar predicament as he follows in the shadows of superstar Derek Jeter. Escalona, signed as a minor league free agent in 2004, is in his 11th season as a professional and third overall with the Clippers.

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Although the middle-infielder has never played significant time in the big leagues on a consistent basis, the bigs are not unfamiliar territory as Escalona has spent time with the Yankees and Devil Rays.

His shining moment in the major leagues came last season as he delivered a game winning bases loaded single against Toronto. Even with the middle infield of the Yankees already solidified, Escalona remains confident as he feels his progression will take him to the top.

Felix Escalona told PinstripesPlus.com, "My hitting hasn't been very good right now but I have to just keep working and something good will happen."

It is imperative for Escalona to remain confident in his ability both offensively and defensive, especially when struggling because, if not, it is a tough mountain to climb when facing the stiff competition of talent that exists in New York.

Escalona refuses to let a player such as Jeter shake his confidence in his ability to be a key contributor in the big leagues. The drive to success begins with a certain level of mental toughness and it is something Escalona must possess in his arsenal.

Escalona has developed a mentality that he has the ability to succeed as much as any other professional player in the game today. It is a very impressive approach to the game as long as the confidence in a player doesn't become excessive. That does not appear to be the case with Escalona. He reiterates that playing behind a superstar will not shed his focus on the field.

"I will always say that nobody is better than me and when you get a chance you just have to deliver," said Escalona.

Like many minor leaguers attempting to work their way up to the big leagues, Escalona focuses his improvement on the offensive side of things. A consistent bat would be quite critical in New York providing the necessary depth that is essential to a ballclub in the heat of a pennant race.

Improvement is important at all levels of baseball, however, this being his 11th season professionally, he doesn't exactly have all the time in the world to develop his game to its maximum potential.

"The last four years I've been really concentrating on my hitting and keeping my head up," said Escalona.

Although his main goal continues to be able to competitively compete at the big league level, Escalona believes becoming a better baseball player in general is more important than worrying about whether you are going to receive that promotion to the majors.

There is a fine line between designating a big league roster spot by season's end as an individual priority and dwelling on that priority as each game passes by. Escalona chooses to be patient as there are countless situations that could eventually arise for an opportunity to contribute in the Bronx.

Escalona seems to have an approach of playing baseball, no matter the level, is still playing baseball, however, the major leagues are always the ultimate goal.

"My main focus is making it back to New York. Even if I don't have the opportunity to play everyday, you can still watch in the dugout and learn," Escalona added.

Along with an opportunity to once again play for the Yankees, the ability to perform at the plate remains the constant focus for Escalona this season. With a month into the season, Escalona is hitting a mere .170 and won't be receiving invites any time soon with the Yankees if this keeps up.

However, it has only been a month and there is plenty of time for him to turn it all around and get his overall game headed in the right direction. Clippers manager Dave Miley agrees.

"He's scuffled with the bat a little bit but it's early and hopefully he can get a jump start," said Miley.

The upcoming summer months should give a better indication on which direction Escalona will head this season, whether it is New York or Columbus. A confident and improved hitter is the necessary formula Escalona must seek in his journey back to the big leagues.

If Escalona can meet expectations that the Yankee organization feels he can reach, will Derek Jeter have to watch his back? I wouldn't go that far, however, with the necessary improvement, he could find himself in New York to stay.

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