|Willians Astudillo, image- Jay Floyd
The 22-year-old missed all of last season with a left knee injury, but has clearly bounced back nicely. Astudillo is 40-for-85 (.471 avg) in his last 23 games, helping to boost his league leading season average to .340.
I spoke with BlueClaws personnel about Astudillo's exciting batting crown chase. Read ahead for those quotes...
Manager Greg Legg-
"He's played the same all year, with the same energy and intensity. I never saw him have a lull. He loves baseball. I think that's the reason he gets up in the morning is to hit. But it has added some excitement to (our final week of the season). It's definitely interesting and if we can do anything to help him, we will."
"It's neat, we got Cozens, who set a franchise record for 15 homers and (stealing) 20 bags. No one else has ever done that. I think he's the only guy in the league to do that this year. So, we've got a couple pluses on the offensive side."
Fellow Venezuelan Carlos Tocci-
"I'm excited because I know Astudillo's going to win that title because he's been hitting his whole life and he's a great hitter. I want to help push him to win that title."
Reliever Joe DeNato-
"I've never seen a better hitter than him. He's got the best hands I've ever seen. He doesn't strike out. And he's consistent too."
Catcher Jose Mayorga-
"Willians is a great hitter. From the first time that he signed, I saw him the whole year, whole season, the whole time I've seen him above .300. He will make it and I think he has a great chance to win it."
Astudillo, who has played first base, outfield and catcher to stay in the lineup, on his defensive versatility-
"I've been working a little bit more than normal, because I have to take ground balls and play the outfield. Plus I have to catch bullpens. It has been hard for me. I'm not used to all the extra work and playing all the positions, but I feel good in all positions. I want to always be in the lineup and if I can make it where the manager wants to use me anywhere, I just want to be in here and help the team."
"I'm always having fun whenever I'm in between the lines. I just try to do the same, having fun, playing hard. I have more fun because I know I'm fighting for the title. Each day, I'm getting closer to the batting title, so chasing the title adds to it also."