Delta Cleary Jr., a staple in the Ducks’ outfield since 2015, picked up his 1,000th career hit on Monday, but it was the final 75 that might have been the hardest.
Mired in a slump for most of the first half, Cleary used a hot July to return to form, giving the Ducks the production that they desperately need at the top of the lineup and allowing him to reach that noteworthy milestone.
“It was a great honor,” said Cleary, who played seven seasons in the Rockies’ system and part of one in the Nationals’ system. “It shows how much hard work and dedication I’ve put into this game, this being my 10th year. I was excited. It’s something that nobody can take away from me.”
Cleary, who was hitting .218 on June 30, hit .351 in July to boost his average to .249 entering play Thursday. Given that he hit .321 last season, that average still is not where he expects it to be, but he’s getting there.
“There hasn’t been too much different,” Cleary said of his approach in July. “But I’ve just been controlling my body, putting out that good swing and swinging at good pitches. I don’t really think I’ve changed mechanically, but I’m bearing down, starting to swing at good pitches and laying off pitches that I don’t need to be swinging at.”
Pitch selection was the primary culprit in Cleary’s first-half struggles.
“I was chasing a lot of bad pitches and missing a lot of good pitches,” he said. “That’s kind of the thing in baseball. Once you get a pitch to hit, you have to do something with it. You can’t miss them.”
Ducks manager Kevin Baez dropped Cleary from the top third to the lower third of the lineup to help him deal with the situation. “I wanted to put less pressure on him, move him down a little bit and try to kick-start him,” Baez said. “He stayed positive, still got his work in and is now having better results . . . He went back to the basics, trusted his hands, and that’s when things happened.”
Cleary doesn’t believe lineup position had anything to do with his production, or lack thereof. “I still have to do what I have to do as a baseball player,” he said. “A lot of these guys in the league know who I am, know what I do and know what I don’t do well. To me, I have to try to make adjustments to that. I can’t just go up there and swing at everything.”
Ducks borrow McGuiggan from Bees
Who says division rivals can’t help each other out every once in a while?
In a move that probably would happen only in the independent ranks, the Ducks, short a few players because of injury, essentially borrowed New Britain Bees infielder Jake McGuiggan last week.
McGuiggan, who hit .201 in 60 games with the Bees, was acquired by the Ducks on Monday in exchange for a player to be named.
That player? McGuiggan. After striking out in his lone at-bat for the Ducks on Tuesday, they sent him back to New Britain before Thursday night’s game.
So yes, McGuiggan was traded . . . for himself.
“In this league, if a player is in a position where, perhaps, he’s not getting enough time as he’d like and there becomes an opportunity to get some more at-bats somewhere else, we try to figure out if there’s a possible way to do it,” Ducks president and general manager Michael Pfaff said.
The play that precipitated this modern baseball oddity happened last Saturday when Patchogue native Anthony Vega was struck in the face with a ball while sliding into second base on a steal.
When it was determined that Vega would be out for the midweek series with York, he was added to a list of questionables that included Dan Lyons (foot), Lew Ford (hamstring) and Quintin Berry (quadriceps), Pfaff said.
“Rather than go to York risking having to bat a pitcher in the DH spot, we reached out to a few teams in the league that were close by to York to see if they had any extra position players that they wouldn’t mind trading to us for a short term,” Pfaff said. “New Britain answered the call . . . New Britain was traveling to Lancaster, which is only a half an hour from York. So McGuiggan went to York and we put him on our club.”
Lyons ended up not missing any time. Once it was determined that Vega and Berry would be available for this weekend’s series with Bridgeport — Ford still is day-to-day, Baez said — McGuiggan was sent back to New Britain.
“We weren’t sure if it was going to be short term or not,” Pfaff said of the trade. “But that’s what it turned out to be.”
On deck: Bridgeport at Ducks, 5:05 p.m. Sunday