BALTIMORE -- When describing Nick Solak, manager Chris Woodward used words like hardworking and relentless. The skipper also used the word obsessive. Solak strives to be the best player he can, consuming himself with the analytical side of the game.
While Woodward is glad that the primary second baseman is so devoted, he worries about burnout.
“I think that was probably the biggest message; you got to find joy in this game,” said Woodward on Solak being sent to Triple-A Round Rock in July. “You got to find peace in every day that you work. You're always trying to find a way up to get to where you want. It's sometimes the numbers, the analytics, and this and that, and it distracts you from finding true joy about competing out there.”
Since returning to the Major League level on Aug. 20, Solak has changed his approach -- mainly mentally -- and it’s helped him at the plate. His batting average since returning is .269 entering Friday, up from .225 at the time of being optioned to Triple-A on July 23.
“It's been nice to see him kind of make that adjustment,” Woodward said. When he did, he came back and he's got the hair all over the place, he's got the beard all over the place. You can just see he's in a good place mentally.”
While the 26-year-old Solak isn’t completely ready to evaluate his season yet, noting that there's one week left, he was willing to share the biggest change he’s felt in himself -- managing the highs and lows. In the words of his skipper, he learned how to enjoy the game again.
“Just the ability to go out and have fun,” Solak said. “[I learned] not to put too much pressure on myself whether things are going really good or things are going really bad, which I kind of experienced some of both this year. Mentally, I learned a lot from some of the successes and from some of the struggles this year. I think that was important for me as a person and as a player moving forward.”
When Solak rejoined the team, he took on more of a leadership role. He recalled guys that made an impact on him, some of whom were traded at the Deadline while he was at Triple-A. The second baseman felt ready to step up and share the new mentality he had, hoping it would help younger players and other teammates.
“As a younger guy, even though I debuted a few years ago, having some experience I think will help to be able to share,” Solak said. “There's not a whole lot of guys who never get sent down or never struggle. Those guys are kind of few and far between, which is amazing. I think that reflecting on [that], it's a part of being a baseball player. It’s part of living out this dream.”
The Down East Wood Ducks played in Charleston, S.C., on Friday night in Game 3 of the Low-A East Championship Series. The Rangers' Low-A affiliate was trailing 2-0 in the best of three series.
In the final week of Triple-A, Round Rock erased a 6-0 deficit to win in a walk-off fashion on Thursday night. In the final three innings, the Express began a rally led by home runs from Domingo Leyba and Josh Jung. Jung, the organization's No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is hitting .333 with seven homers with the Triple-A affiliate.