05/22/2009 2:19 PM ET
Gary Sheffield: Mets need contributions
Veteran slugger continues to make adjustments
Nobody knows so much about baseball that he can't learn more. You have to always be learning on the job, and it's always going to be that way. I've played this game for 22 years on the big league level, and I still haven't seen everything. In fact, I still have plenty to learn about hitting.
There are still small things, subtle things, like what you can pick up from a pitcher or what he might do in a certain situation. It's those types of keys that help you recognize pitches. There are so many little things that you can recognize and use to your advantage. You absorb and process information constantly.
I'm a lot wiser now than when I broke into the big leagues. Back then, I was getting by on talent. As I got older, I started to learn more about myself and more about the game. I learned to understand my limitations, and once I figured that out, it really helped me grow as a player.
Recently, I've made adjustments consistent with not being an everyday starter. I've focused on keeping my weight back and trying to hit the ball back up the middle. Coming off the bench as a slugger is difficult. The game is usually on the line, and pitchers don't want you to hit the ball out of the ballpark.
Right now, we all have to step up with Carlos Delgado going down to injury. It's our job now to hold down the fort until he gets back. We have a lot of guys here who will get their share of first-base time, and a couple of guys will play more than they usually will play. With that being said, we all have to step up.
I can contribute to that effort. I also have to be smart about it and take a day off when I get a little tired. Nobody replaces Carlos all by himself. We have guys capable of going out there and doing the job, so I don't have to push too much.
At a time like this, there's always the danger of trying to do too much. Delgado is a power hitter, and he can hit the ball out of any ballpark. We'll miss his power, but, at the same time, we have to score runs any way we can without him. Hopefully, we get him back sooner rather than later.
Our pitchers can step up, too. A lot of times, good pitching can bail a team out of a lot of situations, including injuries. We can go out there and pitch a shutout. We have a lot of professionals here, and we know we can step in and do the job while others are hurting.
For me now, it is about trying to focus on four at-bats -- or just one at-bat -- and not trying to hit home runs. I want to spread the ball around and get base hits. You can win a game with a simple base hit.
Gary Sheffield, who recently hit his 500th career home run, is in his first season with the Mets. The 40-year-old slugger will likely get more at-bats in the coming weeks in the absence of Carlos Delgado, who underwent surgery on Tuesday to remove a bone spur and repair a torn labrum in his right hip.