Duncan Healthy and Prepared for 2007

Duncan says he has been getting his timing down

Eric Duncan, the Yankees' first round selection in 2003, had his struggles in 2006. He was demoted back to Double-A Trenton after struggling in Triple-A Columbus and was sidelined for good portion of the season with a back injury. Looking back on 2006, he admits that he may have not been fully prepared for Triple-A but he feels that the 2007 season will be a different story.

"I think so," Eric Duncan said when asked if he is more prepared for Triple-A. "I think whenever you have a little more time under your belt, the experience will be different the second time around."

"It's just one of those things where every year you get more at-bats and see more pitchers and pitches. You have a little more recollection about the all-around experience and a little more of a different plan going into this year."

"I think I'm a little more mature this year and hopefully it will work out a little differently."

Duncan may have had a 2006 season to forget but he was invited to Major League camp this spring. According to him, the learning experience is second to none.

"It went great," he said of his experience in big league camp, "the way the clubhouse is over there and there are so many great players. The whole coaching staff has been big league managers so it's really a great opportunity for all the guys over there to learn a lot."

Duncan has been making improvements with his swing and credits the Yankees' hitting coaches with the strides he has made.

"Kevin Long was great," he admitted. "I had him in a little bit of Triple-A last year. I got to know him then and it really says a lot that they named him the big league hitting coach."

"We've been working on little things in my swing with Butch Weiniger over here. The Yankees have a lot of great hitting coaches up and down the organization."

While he has been working out the kinks in his swing, he is also learning a new position in the field. In 2006 the Yankees shifted Duncan across the diamond to first base. While the transition is still new to him, he is looking more and more comfortable there.

"It's going well," he said of his move from third base. "The main thing is that I'm starting to take a liking to the position. At first, it's a matter of pride thing, where you want to do the best that you can wherever you are in the field."

"I'm really starting to like the position, scooping the ball out of the dirt and everything like that. First base gives you the opportunity to help your teammates out. Being a former third baseman, you really appreciate guys over there who try for you."

The back injury that he suffered last season is no longer hindering him but he does admit that it is something that will follow him for a long time.

"I'm feeling good," said Duncan. "I have to get here a little early and stay a little later just to do all my stretching and exercises. It's just one of those things that I am going to have to deal with for a long time. As long as I stay on top of it, it shouldn't be a problem."

Learning a new position and toying with his swing has been a big part of his spring but there is no doubt in his mind about what his main focus will be in 2007.

"Staying healthy is my number one goal. I heard guys say it in the past and I've never been injured so I really didn't know what they meant by it. An injury can really hamper your season in a big time way, even when you are playing."

"My consistency will also be part of my focus in Scranton. It is just one of those things, going to the park everyday, having a particular plan and not getting away from it. Not letting one bad swing and one bad at-bat take you away or out of your game."

As Spring Training comes to a close, he knows that the results do not count until he gets to Triple-A Scranton. This part is just a tune-up.

"I think it's going well," he said when asked to grade his overall spring. "As you get more and more Spring Trainings under your belt you realize that results aren't the biggest thing."

"It's about getting your timing and the results don't start to count until the first game of the season. So right now everybody is trying to get their timing and get as locked in as possible as we get near the end."

For Duncan, the 2007 season is going to be an important one. He knows New York is waiting for him to finally tap into his tremendous potential. If he has a breakout season ,he could see the big leagues sometime this season and that would be a dream come true for him.

"People always asked what I wanted to be growing up. It was never a fireman, never a policeman, it was always a Major League baseball player. So anytime that you are one step away from the big leagues, it's exciting and anyone who says they are not excited, they are lying."

"So it's definitely, hopefully going to be a big year."

Duncan looks poised and primed to have excellent season in Scranton. He's ready for another shot at the Triple-A level and if he stays healthy, he might just punch his ticket to Yankee Stadium in 2007.

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