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June 11, 2011 at 2:03 PM

Jack Cust says he needs to “stay within himself” and his numbers will come

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The last thing Jack Cust wants to do is go up there thinking he’s got to hit more home runs. Cust found himself pressing a bit too hard last night when he tried to jump on a 2-0 pitch and wound up missing it.
Cust told me it wasn’t so much the “rust” that I’d speculated about after he’d missed two straight games then played last night. More just mental focus. Staying within himself. Not trying to make up two months’ worth of production in one night.
He won’t get the chance to do it tonight, unless he’s a pinch-hitter. Mike Carp is starting ahead of him at DH for the third time in four nights. So, I wondered, what is the team telling Cust he has to do to get back in there?
“I think they’re just trying to get guys going,” he said. “Right now, they’ve got a lot of young guys up there. Greg (Halman) and Peg (Carlos Peguero) have been doing a good job. I think they just want what’s best, No. 1 for the team and No. 2 personally for each guy. I understand what’s going on. I wasn’t swinging the bat as well as I’d hoped. But I still think it’s early. I know what I can do.”

And what he could do, Cust said, is typified more in his May numbers than anything else. He didn’t have a good April, but in May hit .276 with a .375 on-base-percentage and a .447 slugging percentage.
Those are pretty good numbers, right up alongside and even above his career norms in some cases.
But the home runs aren’t there. And when you’re a DH, there’s an expectation of home runs.
In June, Cust has a .757 on-base-plus slugging percentage which — while not exceptional — is not half-bad for a down month. But a lot of that is from a .400 OBP, which has been largely walk generated, since he’s only hitting .143.
Cust has six walks in 14 at-bats.
“That’s what I do,” Cust said, shrugging. “I’m a player who walks a lot, who strikes out a lot and who hits home runs.”
Again, back to the home runs. He is walking. He is striking out. He just isn’t going deep.
“This month, I’ve felt pretty good,” he said. “I haven’t had a lot to show for it.”
And he isn’t getting a ton of opportunity these days. But he insists he hasn’t lost faith.
“I know what I’m going to do when I get on a hot streak,” he said. “I’ve hit 10 home runs in a month before. I just need to stay within myself. Not try to do too much. And when the weather heats up a bit, that’s when maybe you’ll see me start to do some of the things I’ve done before.”
Cust won’t say it but I will. He hasn’t been the greatest match for Safeco Field, a place where the weather has been known not to heat up until after Fourth of July celebrations.
He’s got a .184 average and .684 OPS at home versus a .280 average with a .826 OPS on the road. Those are some huge splits.
So, it might be worth sticking around a bit to see Cust in warmer weather before making a definitive call on him. Because a .280 average and .826 OPS is exactly what you want in a DH. Well, you always want more, but this team will take those numbers from Cust.
With a few more homers.
The question now is, how much of an opportunity will he get?
A lot of that depends on Carp. If he goes on a tear and sustains that over several weeks, Cust could become a guy the team tries to move in a July trade.
But if Carp goes back to being the Mike Carp of old, well, then, that could mean more playing time for Cust once it gets warmer in Seattle. Thing is, he may not get that long. July 4 is still a ways away. He has to do more with whatever playing time he gets.
“They want the best for everybody,” he said. “I really believe that. Sure, I want to be in there everyday. I don’t think there’s any player who doesn’t. But you’ve got to do what’s best for the team at certain times. Right now, the team wants to be creative and give themselves the best opportunity to win.”
And whether or not Cust becomes a full-time part of that opportunity again could very well depend on some balls flying out of the park off his bat at some point soon.



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