Prospect Leonard credits pushups for '15 offense

Prospect Leonard credits pushups for '15 offense

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Pushups paved the way for Patrick Leonard's 2015 campaign.

The Rays' prospect experienced a tough first month to his season at Double-A Montgomery when hitting coach Ozzie Timmons stepped in for a challenge.

"We challenged him that he couldn't do 30 pushups," Timmons said. "He did it, and that night he hit a homer. And from that day on we did pushups every day before the games. He'd be like, 'You ready to do the pushups?' We added five a week, so by the end of the season we got up to about 60. It became a good little workout. It was fun. It was a good thing to do."

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Leonard, 23, finished the season at .256 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs.

"Last year I hit really well for three months, but the first month I wasn't hitting very well," Leonard said. "But I did the rest of the year. So I think it's more consistency that will get me there. It's a process. This is a big year for me. I have to go out there and not put pressure on myself. Be confident and try to be as consistent as I can."

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Leonard came to the Rays, along with Jake Odorizzi and Wil Myers, in a 2012 trade that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals. Third base is Leonard's best position, but he plays all the corner positions in the infield and the outfield. He knows the worst thing someone in his position can do is to look at the players occupying those positions at the Major League level.

"I try not to worry how the people in front of me are doing," he said. "Obviously, I look at it and see how everyone is doing. Honestly, the only way I'm going to make it is if I play well. It doesn't matter what everybody else does."

The Rays reassigned Leonard to Minor League camp on March 15. That did nothing to diminish the experience of his first Major League camp.

"It's been a pleasure being around all the Major League guys," Leonard said. "Learning from them. … I've just tried to pick their brains and see like what they're thinking when they're playing third, first or outfield, even hitting and just try to learn what they do and struggle with and take that into my game."

Evan Longoria smiled when asked what, if any advice, he's dispatched to Leonard.

"Not much, really," Longoria said. "I've always been a guy who just kind of tried to do my own work and do it the right way and hope that the guys that are here -- whether they're younger or the same age -- kind of maybe follow the example or take something positive away from the experience. Patrick has played well this spring. I like him, and he's a good guy and I think he's a good player."

Leonard started at third for the Rays in Fort Myers in their 5-2 win over the Twins Wednesday and went 1-for-3 as the varsity stayed home following their trip to Cuba.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.