MOOSIC — This season has been different for Mike Papi.
The Tunkhannock grad has played in over 115 games in each of his first three full seasons as a pro. He’s not playing at that same rate this season, however.
Papi wasn’t in the starting lineup for his homecoming when his Columbus Clippers traveled to Moosic on Monday night. As the Clippers came to town to play the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Tunkhannock grad was instead sitting on the bench when his teammates took the field for the first time in the bottom of the first inning.
The 25-year-old outfielder has played in just eight of the Clippers 16 games this season.
“My swing feels good. The results will come,” Papi said. “I’ve been taking advantage of all of the opportunities I’ve been getting. It’s a process and it’s a grind. It’s a long season and I’m just trying to stay consistent.”
While his playing time hasn’t been what he’s wanted this season, Papi is taking it in stride despite his .217 batting average.
Even when he’s not in the starting lineup, he’s still dialed into the game and learning from the players on the bench around him. But most importantly, he’s staying ready. Because even though he’s not starting every day, he still has an opportunity to play in every game.
“There’s an adjustment period. You just always have to be ready,” Papi said. “If you’re on the bench, you always have an opportunity to come off the bench and have an impact and the days that you’re in there do anything you can to make an impact and help the team win. Right now, I’m just trying to stay positive, work hard and take advantage of every opportunity.
“You can learn a lot from the older guys that are here and just because you’re not playing you could still learn a lot of things that are going on during the game that day and carrying on through the rest of the series.”
But this limited playing time has forced Papi to change part of his game.
Throughout his career, Papi has always had great discipline of the plate. He’s worked at least 70 walks in each of his first three seasons as a pro. If Papi had played the entire season with Columbus in 2017, instead of splitting time between Triple-A and Double-A, he would have ranked fourth on the team with walks.
Even though he’s still racking up his fair share of bases on balls, walking in six of the eight games he’s played in, he’s taking a more aggressive approach with the hopes of he’ll have more productive at-bats, which could lead to more playing time.
“I’m still very disciplined at the plate,” Papi said. “I don’t want to swing outside the zone. I wouldn’t say I’m changing my approach because of playing time at all. I think you have to stay within yourself. Just play your game. I like to get on base and try to score runs and that’s how you’re going to win games.”
But for now, he’ll enjoy his time back home and being able to stay with his parents and sleep in his own bed. It’s an opportunity he cherishes.
“It’s good when you have the support in the stands,” Papi said. “You know your teammates are always behind you, but when you’re family’s out there it makes all of the difference.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle