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Busy Weglarz growing into his frame

Busy Weglarz growing into his frame

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ST. LOUIS -- Call it a merit without the mileage.

Indians prospect Nick Weglarz has represented his native Canada as part of the country's junior national team, in the Beijing Olympic Games and in the World Baseball Classic. Each of these exploits have been an honor for the 21-year-old who grew up near Niagara Falls, and they've allowed him to see parts of the world he never dreamed he'd see. He's been overseas three times in the past two years.

The downside, if it exists, is a little thing known as jet lag.

"I'm still tired," Weglarz joked.

On Sunday, as a participant in the XM All-Star Futures Game at Busch Stadium, Weglarz represented his organization -- the Indians -- and his own potential, not just his country. And he only had to come to St. Louis to do so. He and Double-A Akron teammate Carlos Santana flew in Saturday night to spend a couple of days getting the All-Star treatment, as they were picked to play for the World team. Triple-A Columbus manager Torey Lovullo served as a coach for the U.S. team.

"It's an honor to be here," Weglarz said. "The Olympics, Team Canada, the World Baseball Classic ... it's good to partake in all of this."

Earlier this year, Weglarz, a third-round selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, took part in the Indians' Spring Training camp. Though he wasn't an official invitee to big league camp, Weglarz was nonetheless a regular on the Major League side. He came into the 2009 season feeling good about his swing and ready for the challenges of the move from Class A Kinston to Double-A Akron.

Or so he thought.

In April, Weglarz labored to an .056 (5-for-56) average -- the first prolonged rough patch of his professional career.

"I was trying too hard to get out to a hot start," Weglarz said.

While working with Akron hitting coach Lee May Jr., Weglarz made some tweaks in his mechanics and his approach.

"I spread my legs apart a bit and was seeing the ball better," Weglarz said. "I changed my hands to where I was getting more leverage on the ball and had a more consistent path to the ball. We figured a couple of things out, and since then it's been consistent."

Weglarz hit .329 (28-for-85) with six homers and 28 RBIs in May before hitting .281 (25-for-89) with five homers and 21 RBIs in June. He was batting .212 (7-for-33) in July before this brief break.

When you look at Weglarz, you see the body of a young Jim Thome and Travis Hafner. Then you remember that Weglarz is only 21 and is already listed at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. He's actually more physically developed than either of those sluggers were at this age.

It's the baby face atop the big body that reminds you that the red-headed Weglarz is still a young kid growing into his body and developing into the type of player he'll ultimately be. And though his raw power is what initially got the attention of the Indians' scouts -- a 17-year-old Weglarz pelted home runs into the upper deck of Progressive Field when he took part in a pre-Draft workout -- his plate discipline is what will ultimately help him ascend.

Weglarz drew 71 walks in 454 plate appearances at Kinston last year, and he has 53 walks in 328 trips to the plate this year with the Aeros.

"When I first signed, [the Indians] were big on on-base percentage," said Weglarz, who has a career OBP of .383 in the Minors. "I've had hitting coaches tell me, 'Get your pitch to hit.' When you're swinging at pitchers' pitches, you're going to get yourself out most of the time. I've found that pitchers make mistakes, and you've just got to be ready for them."

Such a mature approach belies Weglarz's youth, and that's what has the Indians feeling strong about his potential.

Weglarz had a chance to put that potential on display on the national stage by getting the start in left field for the World team Sunday. He went 0-for-2, reaching on a hit by pitch in the first. Then it was time to get ready to head back to the grind of Double-A.

"In Double-A, you're a phone call away," Weglarz said. "You do sense it. It's a lot different than A ball. It's still geared toward developing, but you've got to get the job done, get the run in and do whatever you can to help the team win."

Anthony Castrovince 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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