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Carp looking to regain form in AFL

Carp looking to regain form in AFL

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mike Carp didn't realize there was anything wrong. He felt the same at the plate, and though his numbers upon his return from a broken finger this season weren't spectacular, he had no reason to be concerned.

Then Carp saw videotape of himself and what he saw surprised him. The player some consider the Mets' first baseman of the future checked out that little strip of celluloid last month while working with Tim Teufel, who managed New York's South Atlantic League affiliate Savannah Sand Gnats this season and is currently coaching with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. The player on the tape was clearly Carp, but what he saw in the swing was unrecognizable.

Carp broke the ring finger on his right hand on May 3 while Double-A Binghamton was playing at New Britain. He didn't return until June 19, hitting .292 in 48 at-bats through the end of that month. But he hit .214 in July and ended the season batting .251 with career lows in home runs (11) and RBIs (48).

"I saw that video and it didn't look like me," Carp said. "The injury resulted in some bad habits that you just can't feel. When I was up there at the plate, I had the same mindset. But when I broke it down I realized that it wasn't me. And I've noticed the last couple of weeks that it wasn't me."

Carp says his finger was still tender when he came off the disabled list in June. While much of that tenderness has subsided, he subconsciously began to compensate for what had been lacking in his grip as a result of the injury. He said he wasn't as strong holding the bat, so he attempted to use his body more to generate power and that eventually led to him moving his hands too much.

The domino effect was obvious on the video, but not in his approach at the plate, so now he's in Arizona working on correcting the problem. Carp was hitting .206 with 10 RBIs through 68 AFL at-bats so all the kinks still haven't been worked out.

"It's been frustrating the last couple of weeks," he said. "I just have to figure out how I was swinging in 2006 [when he was named New York's organizational Player of the Year] and in Spring Training this year and do that here."

If Carp can regain the form he displayed for much of Spring Training, it certainly would benefit him and the Mets. He spent almost the entire spring in Major League camp because of nagging injuries to first basemen Carlos Delgado and Julio Franco. Though he finished with a .233 average, he had a homer and seven RBIs in 43 at-bats, impressing manager Willie Randolph and the front office with his approach.

Carp was hoping to use the time with the parent club as a springboard for the season, but bad weather in upstate New York limited Binghamton to 17 games in April. Still, he was hitting .267 through 20 games with a pair of homers and seven RBIs before getting hurt.

"It was a tough April because I was excited to have a good first month," Carp said. "But between the snow and getting hurt, it took a toll on my swing. I don't know if I came back too soon. But there was too much anxiety just sitting around. I can't be in the middle of the season and not playing.

"I don't see this as a setback. It would have been different if this were a hamstring or an oblique. You can't control a ball hitting your finger. I'm still young and I've had successes. Hopefully I can carry it into next year and earn a callup."

Whether that happens remains to be seen. Delgado has a year left on his contract and those feeding the fires in the hot stove league would like nothing more than for the Mets to sign Alex Rodriguez and move David Wright to first to accommodate him, as unlikely a scenario as that appears to be.

Still there could be a place for Carp with the Mets by the end of the 2008 season. But one American League scout who saw a great deal of Carp this season, both before and after the injury, isn't entirely convinced where he will fit in or when.

"I got to see him a lot in Spring Training and then in Binghamton and he was swinging the bat well," the scout said. "I think he's going to be a lefty bat off the bench. He has a chance at being a regular because his defense is adequate, he can hit, has some power and a good idea of the strike zone.

"I kind of have some doubts about some of his numbers. I think he could be along the lines of someone like Mike Jacobs. But I think he's a better hitter than Mike was at this stage. He recognizes pitches a little better. I think they are similar offensive guys, though Carp might hit for a better average and Jacobs for more homers."

Carp was amused by the Jacobs comparison. He doesn't want to be Mike Jacobs, though. He wants to be Mike Carp and right now that's not the player he sees when he looks at the tape.

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

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