Higashioka Gains Invaluable Experience

Kyle Higashioka feels he's better prepared now

There's a double-edged sword to young prospects playing a couple of levels above their usual minor league level in Spring Training. It usually means they are ticketed for Extended Spring Training to start the year, which can be disappointing, but as Kyle Higashioka has found out this spring it can also be a great developmental tool.

"I'm seeing the ball really well," Kyle Higashioka said of his first Spring Training. "The whole camp I've been working on low line-drives up the middle and it seems that whenever I get in the game it's been translating very well."

Looking noticeably stronger and much more toned, he got a head-start to his season with the way he showed up to camp.

"I gained about five pounds of muscle through working out at Gold's Gym – yoga, pilates – just to stay flexible," he said.

"I did a lot of sprinting and running, like the program they gave us. I just tried to follow that and even embellish on it a little bit. I feel stronger in all aspects of my game."

A candidate at one point to potentially open up his first full season with the Charleston Riverdogs, however, Higashioka was given an opportunity to work with the Double-A work group in camp since the likes of Francisco Cervelli and Kyle Anson were in big league camp.

"I think it's going really well. I've gotten a lot of good experience playing for the [Trenton Thunder]. The pitchers are so much more advanced that I was used to in rookie league.

"I feel like if I go back down to wherever I'm going it'll be that much easier to hit because the level of precision and how polished these pitchers are, are so much more than I've faced before."

He takes it one step further though. While he's astute enough to realize his time spent with the higher work group probably meant he would be left out of the long-season leagues at the end of camp, he also now knows that the experience he has gained has been invaluable.

"I think so, I actually think so a lot," he said emphatically. "I could even see the difference between the high-A pitchers and the Double-A pitchers I've been facing.

"[On Tuesday] I played for the high-A team and it was a totally different world. It was easier to hit. I didn't realize it was that much of a jump from high-A to Double-A, but it is."

Higashioka, who had a pair of hits in Tuesday's game with the Tampa Yankes, can only imagine how better prepared he'll be by moving down even further a level or two for his final destination this season.

Combining that experience at the higher levels with his stronger physique this year has him believing his game is peaking quickly and that could propel him to a strong start to his professional career.

"I think so," he opined. "To be able to play at the Double-A level for me being in the rookie leagues last year, I just think that's a great experience because it's made me so much better.

"Everything seems like it's coming together for me. I'm hitting well and I'm catching well, so I'm excited to see what happens this season.'

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