Scott exudes strength, confidence

Scott exudes strength, confidence

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- At first glance, you might not recognize him, what with the bigger shoulders, the chiseled torso and the Dan Haren mane, but the strapping young man in the corner of the Houston clubhouse putting on the Astros jersey is indeed Luke Scott.

A question that isn't so easy to answer is: will Scott be manning right field when the Astros open the regular season at Minute Maid Park on April 2?

"I did everything a man could possibly do to prepare for this season," Scott said Tuesday at the team's Osceola County Stadium training complex. "I can't predict what's going to happen, but I know I've put myself in a position to be successful."

He also looks like he's put himself in position to compete in the next Ironman triathlon. An offseason away from baseball was spent entirely working with physical therapist John Carey, the professional athletic trainer who worked wonders with Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies.

Scott power lifted, he did reps and extensive stretching. Then he lifted some more. He worked on every muscle, including some he didn't know he had.

"I wanted to get as strong as I could," Scott explained. "Every day was like [the movie] 'Groundhog Day.' The only thing that changed was one day we'd work on leg strength, the next day arm strength, the rest was the same."

His regimented routine included a strict diet of organic foods, plenty of water, vitamins and produce. No fast foods or processed foods. Most of the meals Scott prepared himself.

"It's discipline," Scott said. "It's feeding the mind, body and spirit good things every day."

The end result? Scott is ripped and ready for what could be the biggest season of his career.

Sometimes the weight room can be harmful to a player's skills. A baseball player needs flexibility. Bulky biceps can negatively affect a swing. Muscle-bound legs can sometimes lead to muscle pulls.

That's where Carey comes in. The therapist knows just how far to push Scott and when to back off.

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"I'm stronger than I've ever been, but my flexibility is better than ever," said Scott, lifting his left leg to his chest to demonstrate the extent of his flexibility. "I couldn't do this if I didn't have that flexibility."

Scott batted .336 in 63 games last year, the 11th-best average in the National League for the second half of the season.

The 28-year-old also contributed 10 homers and 37 RBIs in a performance that left him the frontrunner to start in the Houston outfield alongside left fielder Carlos Lee and center fielder Chris Burke.

"When he came back up [last season], he was phenomenal," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "He'd be an MVP if he played that way for the whole season."

In addition to added strength, Scott also believes the ample rest away from the game will help him this season.

In 2006, he didn't finish playing winter ball until Jan. 17, and then after a couple of weeks off, he went to Spring Training. This time he shut down the game after the regular season ended and only picked up a bat recently for some cage work.

That bat, a 34-inch, 34-ounce bat, is two ounces heavier than he used during the regular season. He'll probably go back to a lighter bat once Grapefruit League games begin, but for now, the heavier bat fits the stronger Scott's needs.

"My swing is still the same," he said. "I haven't faced live pitching in a while, but from what I can tell working in the cage, it's fine."

Even Scott doesn't know how the new strength will translate in terms of his slugging numbers. Then again, he had plenty of power before bulking up.

"He can hit the ball as far as anybody," Garner said. "He's right there with Lance [Berkman] and Carlos. But that's not what makes you a good ballplayer. That's a plus for him, he's [a] left-handed [hitter], that's a plus for him.

"Consistency is the way guys become good. Consistency is when you're in a game situation where you need to do something, it doesn't necessarily mean get a hit, just put the ball in play. My definition of a good hitter is, the hitter has to know the situation and he can produce something that gets you the result that you need."

Scott agrees with that definition and hopes he can provide the textbook example on the field in the coming season.

"In my opinion, I don't think that anyone has gone through an entire season without a slump, you're going to have ups and downs," he said. "Consistency, instead of focusing on results, should be based on approach and effort. Basically, it's quality at-bats as a hitter."

That's essentially what Garner and the Astros are looking for in a right fielder. Time will tell whether they recognize those traits in Scott.

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