Mets' Mazzilli motors around basepaths at AFL
Second baseman triples, notches two runs for Scottsdale Scorpions
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Some players swing hard enough to watch the ball take flight. And others know they'd better run as hard as they can. L.J. Mazzilli proved that he was proud to be in that latter class Monday night, when he tripled and scored two runs in Scottsdale's 7-3 victory over Glendale.
Mazzilli, a second baseman in the Mets organization, helped spark his Arizona Fall League team to victory by crushing a triple into the gap in the second inning. He scampered home on a passed ball that inning, and later walked, stole a base and scored on catcher Elias Diaz's triple.
That's all in a day's work for the fleet-footed Mazzilli, and he said after the game that he never thought his triple would leave the park. Mazzilli, batting .250 with two extra-base hits in six AFL games, said he knew he had to get out of the batter's box as quickly as possible Monday.
"That's far out there. That's big-boy status," he said of his triple. "As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to be in the gap. I just put my head down and I was running as hard as I could, trying to get a triple."
Mazzilli's hit -- and a solo homer by teammate Greg Bird -- gave the Scorpions a 2-0 lead after two innings, and they went on to score the game's first five runs. Glendale would make things interesting with three runs over the fifth and sixth innings, but Scottsdale (6-6) closed out the game.
"It was a good win," said Mazzilli, the son and namesake of former All-Star Lee Mazzilli. "Everybody plays hard every day, and today we had more results. I think everyone did a really good job tonight all around."
Diaz tripled and walked twice for Scottsdale in the victory, and all of the home team's starters notched at least one hit. Only one -- leadoff man Roman Quinn -- had multiple hits. Starting pitcher Joely Rodriguez worked four scoreless innings for the Scorpions en route to the win.
Matt McGill, who started for the Glendale Desert Dogs, gave up five hits and five runs, but only three were earned. Glendale (5-5-1) made two errors and walked five batters.
Mazzilli, 24 years old, is trying to follow up on a strong season that saw him hit .292 in 66 games for Class A Savannah and .312 in 64 games after a promotion to Class A Advanced St. Lucie. Mazzilli, a career .293 hitter in the Minor Leagues, said he learned several lessons that he can take into next season.
"I feel I did well this year," he said. "I learned a lot in the first month and a half of the season when I was struggling a little bit. I figured out what it takes for me to be the best I possibly can be, and I stuck with that plan and approach. I just started trusting myself and things started happening."
Indeed, Mazzilli batted .232 in 25 games last April, and then he hit well over .300 in both May (.333) and June (.321) for Savannah. That hot streak continued at the next level, where Mazzilli batted .341 in June and .342 in August. That tear coincided with an epiphany of approach for the youngster.
"Everyone's different. Everyone's got their own game. You can't try to be someone you're not," Mazzilli said. "I think I figured out who I was about a month and a half into the season, and then I stuck with it. I realized that whatever I have to do for myself to be as good as I can possibly be is good enough. Hopefully, that will take me all the way."
Mazzilli played in one game at Triple-A Las Vegas last season, and his AFL season will give him an opportunity to round out his game against upper-level pitching. Mazzilli, a fourth-round Draft pick in 2013, played 14 games at shortstop last season, but he's still primarily a second baseman.
Now, playing with and against the best prospects in the Minor Leagues, he has an extended opportunity to measure himself against the next generation of big league talent. Mazzilli knows that it's a long fall season, and he's hoping to keep getting better every time he takes the field.
"I'm still trying to get in that groove offensively," said Mazzilli of his Arizona Fall League performance. "But you've also got to give credit to the pitching, because everybody out here is really good. The way I'm playing, I'm taking it day by day and I feel good, so that's what matters the most."