Versatile Tenbrink leads Javelinas rout
Seattle prospect has seen time at short, third and outfield
Not many teams look to groom one of their prospects into a utility player in the Arizona Fall League, but for Nate Tenbrink, it's a mission he's accepted and embraced.
"That's the world I'm living right now," he said. "It started off a little rocky, but I'm comfortable right now."
Tenbrink, a Seattle farmhand, has seen time in the outfield, at third base and even two starts at short this. He's batting .303 with 13 RBIs in 16 games for the Peoria Javelinas.
"Shortstop was out of the blue," he laughed. "I hadn't played that since high school. But whatever they need, I'm willing to do whatever it takes."
And the Mariners scouts had to be impressed Monday as Tenbrink, playing right field, went 3-for-4 with a homer, four runs scored and three RBIs in Peoria's 16-8 rout of Phoenix at home. Tenbrink doubled and scored in the third inning, hit a two-run homer in the fourth and doubled, walked and scored two more times when Peoria batted around in the sixth in a nine-run outburst.
Tenbrink has reached base in nine of his last 10 games, driving in 11 runs in that span despite moving around the field like a veteran utility man. He started the Javs' huge nine-run inning with his first double in 11 starts.
"That's how its been the whole time we've been here, this team is full of great hitter," he said. "We've all having a great time, we're really relaxed in the dugout, and I think that carries over to the batter, and the next batter. The confidence just carries."
The Kansas State product felt it when he stepped to the plate in his first at-bat following a leadoff triple by Indians prospect Jason Kipnis.
"With less than two outs, you gotta enjoy that at-bat," he said. "He's on third, so I'm just looking to get a good pitch to hit. I took a changeup and he he spun a slider over the plate, I just stayed on it and drove it into center. It was the same thing next at-bat, I just kept my balance."
The Mariners prospect bumped his average up from .274 to .303 in the win. He credited working with Seattle hitting coordinators and Fall League coaching staffs this autumn for his consistency at the plate.
"My mechanics right now a really good," said Tenbrink, who .318 at two levels this past season in the Minors. "I',m working really hard with Stubby Clapp of Houston and the Mariners hitting coaches. The key has been on keeping my balance centered up, that's been helping me out really well."
Helping Tenbrink's value is his ability to move around the field defensively. He saw time in the outfield this past year at Class A Advanced High Desert and Double-A West Tenn. Over his career, he's played every position except catcher, pitcher and center field.
"I got a lot of reps in the outfield and I feel pretty comfortable out there," he said. "Being here is getting me a lot of good work, I'm getting some reps at third, in the infield, and I've just got to stay consistent. That's what I'm here for."
Not surprisingly, Tenbrink said he came to Arizona with the goal of improving his mechanics -- defensively.
"There's always room for improvement on everything," he said. "Defensively, my throwing mechanics is something I've always taken a lot of pride in. I'm getting AB's up here, seeing a lot of great pitching, and I'm going out and playing the game I love. It's awesome."
Tenbrink said it's been fun playing with fellow Mariners prospects, especially 2009 first-round pick Dustin Ackley, who hit a three-run homer and raised his average to .429 on Monday.
"It's real good, we're often in our home clubhouse, it's pretty laid back, you can use the weight room whenever you want, it's just a comfortable environment being here," he said. "And playing with guys like Dustin Ackley and getting to watch him play is awesome. And the other guys that are here, we all mesh real well together.
"It's an honor to play with great baseball players like that."
Every player in Peoria's lineup collected a base hit and scored at least one run. Astros farmhand Brandon Barnes slugged a three-run homer and scored twice. Jose Iglesias (Red Sox) had three hits and drove in a pair of runs, while fellow Boston Minor Leaguer Ryan Lavarnway was 3-for-6 with a solo homer.
Stephen Parker (Athletics) doubled and scored twice for the Desert Dogs, who have lost five straight games. Yankees prospect Brandon Laird plated two with a double and Cory Harrilchak (Braves) snapped a 0-for-10 skid with two hits.
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.