It wasn't too long ago that manager Dale Sveum said that he expected Josh Vitters to get the bulk of the playing time at third base. But after starting six of seven games -- and going 2-for-21 in that stretch with eight strikeouts -- Vitters was out of the lineup for the third consecutive game on Thursday.
"Yeah, obviously we have shifted gears a little bit," Sveum said of Vitters absence from the lineup. "We're just getting nothing out of that position. A guy that hasn't struck out much in his career is striking out quite a bit and not making a lot of contact. We're just going to evaluate and just keep plugging along to determine what we have moving forward."
Vitters has struck out 19 times in his 56 major league plate appearances, for a strikeout rate of 33.9%. Compare that to his minor league career rate of 15.3% in 2118 plate appearances and it's clear why Sveum is concerned about Vitters' recent struggles to make contact.
"I can hit at the major league level right now," Vitters said. "There are always adjustments that need to be made and right now there are definitely adjustments to be made. I'm working on making strides and getting where I need to be for next year."
Sveum admitted that one of his priorities was to see what he had in his young players. Unfortunately, Vitters' lack of production at the plate (.093 BA/.107 OBP/.185 SLG) has forced Sveum to prioritize winning over Vitters' immediate development.
"We still want to evaluate, but just kind of giving Vitters some time to kick back right now and see what happens," Sveum said. "It's just one of those things, you're trying to evaluate, but you're trying to win ballgames. We're having trouble scoring runs, period. Valbuena's getting on base, he's swinging the bat really well, his defense, everything like that comes into play, as well as solidifying the top of the lineup."
Vitters said that despite having a breakout season in the minors (.304/.356/.513 with 17 home runs and 32 doubles in 110 games), he still went through ups and downs. He's hopeful that his time in the big leagues this season will prove to be similar. Now he's just awaiting that elusive hot streak.
To his credit, Vitters isn't allowing his lack of playing time to get him down.
"I'm excited for the next three weeks or so and just finish off strong and take that spring training with me," Vitters said. "I'm looking at it extremely positively, I've learned a lot so far. I feel like it's going to help me in my career in the long run."