Reid Brignac was back at home when his Colorado Springs Sky Sox played the New Orleans Zephyrs in Tuesday’s night’s series opener at Zephyr Field.
And, he celebrated by bashing a two-run homer to right field in the ninth inning that tied the score, much to the delight of a contingent which had come from the St. Amant area, where Brignac is from, to see him play.
“You couldn’t wipe the smile off my mom’s face,” Brignac, an infielder, said after the game.
“This is my first time playing here as a pro. It was pretty awesome.”
It was his first time at Zephyr Field since St. Amant beat Jesuit for the Class 5A baseball championship in 2004.
Brignac, however, said he feels he is back home with Colorado Springs, being that he is back in the Colorado Rockies organization.
“This season has been a roller-coaster ride for me,” he said. “It’s definitely been a whirlwind. I’m just grinding out these last few weeks and trying to get called back up.”
He’d been traded to the Rockies in February from the Tampa Bay Rays, the organization in which he’d played for eight seasons after being a second-round draft pick in 2004 from St. Amant, where he was second-team All-USA Today as a shortstop.
He started the season with the Rockies and played in 29 games, hitting .250 with three doubles, one home run and six RBIs, not too bad for a player with the reputation for having a real good glove.
However, he wasn’t a starter and was about to be designated for Colorado Springs when the New York Yankees called on May 17 about a trade for cash. Yankees starter Derek Jeter was not back yet after breaking his ankle last season. And, Jeter’s backup, Eduardo Nunez, had been put on the disabled list a week earlier with a strained oblique.
“(The trade) caught me totally by surprise,” Brignac said. “I thought I was doing pretty well in Colorado to say I was playing different positions and not getting consistent at-bats.”
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman saw in Brignac a player who had played in the American League, was steady in the infield at many positions and, as a left-handed batter, perhaps could take advantage of the short dimensions in right field.
“It gives us a little bit better platoon situation because all the left side of the infield’s bats are right-handed,” Cashman said.
Only, Brignac batted just .114 in 45 at-bats with the Yankees. Once again, his bat had plagued him. In 814 major league plate appearances, he has hit just .221.
With Nunez healed and ready to return on June 21, the Yankees designated Brignac for assignment, but he balked, choosing free agency.
The Rockies were the first team to call, he said. And, down about his hitting, they had soothing words.
“They said they liked my swing,” he said, “that it was OK.
“That’s all I needed to hear.”
Brignac had long grown tired of teams trying to change him as a hitter, going back to early in his career in the minor leagues in the Rays organization.
“The Rays said I had a loop in my swing,” he said. “There were a lot of changes to my approach, my mechanics, the way I placed my feet.”
A fly-ball hitter, the Rays had him trying to pull the ball hard on the ground between third base and shortstop more, he said.
“I wasn’t myself,” he said. “I was focused more on the mechanics than the pitch.”
Sky Sox hitting coach Dave Hajek hadn’t seen Brignac since 2006, when the two were in the Class A California League, Hajek managing Modesto and Brignac as a shortstop with Visalia. He hit .326 that season.
“When he was in A ball, he was a real loose hitter who used all the fields as a young player,” Hajek said. “Now, I see a little bit more tension in his swing than I remember. He gets himself in a bit of trouble when he tries to overswing, tries to do too much. He wants to get back to the majors as bad as anybody.”
Brignac has played in 16 games with the Sky Sox. He said the experiments and adjustments are over. Although he realizes hitting coaches in the past were just trying to help. Getting consistent playing time and at-bats, he has started to come around, he and Hajek say.
Brignac’s 3-for-4 performance Tuesday against the Z’s lifted his batting average to .288. He has seven hits in his past four games with four runs and the two RBIs against the Z’s, which doubled his season’s output.
“I’ve had a couple good games lately, but I wouldn’t say I’ve hit my groove,” he said. “I’m more comfortable at the plate, and I’m just trying to be present with every pitch, let everything hang on the field.”