Shank heating up for LumberKings

By on May 7, 2014
Zach Shank follows through after connecting for a base hit in a LumberKings’ game this season. (Photo by Paul Gierhart)

Zach Shank follows through after connecting for a base hit in a LumberKings’ game this season. (Photo by Paul Gierhart)

Coming out of spring training, the goal of Seattle Mariners’ farmhand Zach Shank was to make a full-season team.
Check.
The 2009 Warwick grad, playing his second season in professional ball, earned a spot with the Single-A Midwest League’s Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings.
Next on Shank’s to-do list is to receive an invite to the Mariners’ instructional league in the fall.
“I’m hoping to open some eyes if I can and try to get myself viewed as a prospect by the organization,” Shank said.
To this point, Shank is doing nothing to hurt his cause. After going 9-for-12 in a weekend series against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, in which the LumberKings took two of three, Shank raised his average to a season-high .303.
Oh yeah, he also scored seven runs in three games against the Timber Rattlers. For the season, his 19 runs are second-best on the team.
Asked how disappointed he was to be leaving Wisconsin, Shank said chuckling, “I’m OK with it. We’re going to warmer weather (for a series against the Burlington Bees in Iowa).
In the warm climate of Arizona, the former Warrior star was hitting the ball well in spring training. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate into a fast start once the opening bell rang. Following an 0-for-2 on April 25 against Cedar Rapids, Shank found himself batting .163.
From that point, he hit safely in seven of the LumberKings’ next eight games while raising his average over a hundred points. His 28 total bases, with five doubles and one triple, currently rank him fifth on the team in that category.
“For awhile there, it was a little slow, but the past few weeks, I can feel it kinda changing around,” Shank said. “I feel good at the plate and I’m hoping that I’m making some progress and it will continue for the rest of the year, but we’ll see.”
All along, Shank has been trying to stick to an approach in the batter’s box and make himself a tough out.
“I’m just seeing a lot of pitches and I feel like I’m taking advantage when they make a mistake,” he said. “I’m fouling off tough pitches with two strikes until they leave something out over the plate &tstr; that’s kinda how it’s been going of late.”
The LumberKings’ 2014 roster consists of a bunch of infielders, including Shank. In the early going, he was basically getting into the lineup every other day. Lately, however, Shank has been playing two or three games in a row before getting a day off and the results have been positive.
Clinton fans might know him as Mr. Versatility, as Shank has played all four infield positions so far this season. That includes first base, a place where he hasn’t exactly had a lot of experience.
“My coach (Scott Steinmann) just kinda assumed that I could play all three of the other ones,” Shank said, “so I could probably play first base too.”
By showing an ability to handle himself at any spot on the infield, he figures that should work to his advantage in the big picture with the Mariners.
“I think it can’t hurt,” Shank said. “I think if you can bring up a guy who can play all four, then you can kinda knock out other guys that might maybe only play two. So I think it can only help me.”
From the standpoint of being familiar with Clinton, where Shank ended his 2013 season batting .286 in eight games following a promotion from the Pulaski (Va.) Mariners, getting assigned to the LumberKings this season was a bonus.
The rest is just baseball as he has always known it. The pitching that Shank faces on a daily basis is “about the same” as he remembers from last September.
“(Returning to Clinton) helped with the stress level moving into a new place because it wasn’t really new for me,” Shank said. “But in terms of baseball, I feel like it’s different every year anyway because a lot of the guys that were here last year aren’t here this year. Actually a lot of the guys that I played with in Pulaski are here and the other short-season team are also here. So just in terms of being comfortable with my surroundings, I think it helped. But for the baseball, I don’t think it really made a difference, good or bad.”
Certainly, if he can continue to hit .300 for the LumberKings, that would be a good thing in terms of trying to get that invite to instructionals.
As a senior at Marist College in 2013, Shank led the Red Foxes in batting average (.370) and he is confident in his ability to do so as a professional.
“That’s always a goal of mine to hit over .300,” Shank said. “I feel like good hitters are over .300. I think I can do it, I think I have the ability to do it, so we’ll see how the rest of the year goes.”
Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4451.

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