ALTOONA, Pa. — When Altoona infielder Robbie Glendinning steps to the plate with runners in scoring position, there's a likely chance he'll bring them home.
"It seems like the mindset changes. I think he's hitting .440 with runners in scoring position, which is absurd," manager Michael Ryan said. "It's just a mindset and a confidence in 'I'm going to get the job done.' It's almost like he's locked more into that at-bat than he is for the whole game. That's really a special gift."
Glendinning, a native of Perth, Australia, who played at the University of Missouri, is hitting well over .400 with runners in scoring position, and he's hitting the ball nearly as well in all situations with a slash line of .313/.364/.500 heading into the All-Star break.
"You look at the at-bats earlier in the game and there are some rough swings. There are some swing-and-miss and chase, and then all of a sudden he's taking a pitch, two pitches off, that's pretty close," Ryan said. "With the game on the line like that, those types of guys that come up clutch, the way they can slow things down is just such a special gift."
It's a rather simple process when runners are on for Glendinning. It's about having the right mindset.
"Just trying to think slow, move slow, just kinda take my breaths and really just get a pitch to hit," said Glendinning, 23, who was drafted by the Pirates in the 21st round in 2017. "Nothing mechanical, but kinda just more mental."
For as good as he has been, his season has had its ups and downs. Glendinning started the season in Altoona before being sent to High-A Bradenton a week into the season. It was there that Glendinning got into a groove, getting regular at-bats and playing time.
"He's gotten more opportunities to play so he can better his craft from that, from playing games," Curve hitting coach Jon Nunnally said. "He went down to High-A in Florida and started getting more playing time and started taking off. Now, he's back here and it's just been continued because he's getting every day reps."
Every day reps are integral to the success of players, but an attitude adjustment coupled with game reps can make a world of difference in a prospect, especially at the Double-A level. The mental aspect of wanting to prove you belong and deserve to be in the position you're in can be arduous to overcome, but Glendinning has done that and then some.
"It's hard not to be impressed. The attitude he had coming in is a lot better than what he had before, to be honest with you." Ryan said. "I don't know that he truly thought he belonged, but the attitude has been great and he's getting confidence every day. He's starting to believe he belongs."
Success at the plate with runners in scoring position didn't come naturally to Glendinning, particularly early.
"To be honest, early in the year I really struggled with runners in scoring position, and then I've just had to change my mindset to the fact the pressure is on the pitcher and really focus on getting a good pitch to hit. I've made that adjustment and it's been good for me lately."
Hitting with runners on base is complex, with a lot of moving parts in the field and at the plate that need to be accounted for with each pitch. The focus for those at the plate, though, is to force the pitcher to make a mistake and take advantage of it.
"He's allowing himself to get much better pitches to hit. With people in scoring position, you've got to get good pitches," Nunnally said. "Maybe he locks in more. But also the pitchers, they've got people on the bases so they try to pitch him more carefully and make mistakes, also. He's hunting all the good stuff. Gets balls up and puts some charge into them."
Naturally, there's more to being a professional baseball player than just hitting and Glendinning has been impressive in the field for the Curve.
"He played shortstop really well, and now he's asked to play third and he hasn't skipped a beat," Ryan said.
The Curve and Glendinning are gearing up for the rest of the season following the break, and Glendinning is already seeing the benefits of his labor.
"It's hard work," he said. "Obviously the way my career's gone so far, it hasn't gotten off to a great start. I've made some adjustments and worked hard in the offseason, and it's starting to pay off."
With his 6-foot-2, 196-pound frame, there's a lot of natural strength to build on as Glendinning develops power that could eventually propel him to top-prospect status.
"He's going to get more power to the pull side the way he's hitting homers there," Nunnally said. "That's where his numbers are going to go up, because he's a big kid, he's tall, strong, lean and once he gets to where he can get that extension through the baseball, to where he can backspin some balls out of the ball park from the pull side, his career could really take off."
For Glendinning though, his approach on a daily basis is much like his approach at the plate, simple.
"Every day is a new day. Not taking anything for granted and work hard every day," Glendinning said.
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