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The secret Casey Blake: Still trying to convince himself he belongs

March 15, 2010 |  7:02 am
This is the other Casey Blake. Not the one who’s averaged 20 home runs and 74 RBIs over his last seven major league seasons. Not the one with two more years and $11.25 million guaranteed on his contract.

This is the guy who was waived four times in his career before finally sticking with the Cleveland Indians. The guy who didn’t play his first full major league season until he was 29.

This is the insecure Casey Blake. The one still riddled with doubt.

"The route I’ve taken to the big leagues, it seems like every year I kinda have to pump myself up, convince myself I belong here," Blake said. "Hopefully one of these years I’m going to get off to a great start and keep it up the whole year."

This Casey Blake second-guesses himself. Struggles with self-belief.

"I need to work on my confidence," he said. "Trying to maintain an overall higher confidence about myself, feel more positive about myself. There’s so much negative stuff in this game. It seems like I don’t gain confidence until I see success. So if I’m not seeing that success, my confidence seems to waiver. I need to try and do something about that.’’

You think? He’s had seven terrific seasons. He’s cemented at third base for the Dodgers. Players dream of such security. Blake is 36 and worried about his mental outlook.

"Each year I try to get more consistent with my mental approach to the game,’’ he said. "I think that will help me not fret as much, not be so stressful. Like when I come home at night I won’t sit there and dwell on going 0 for 4 or whatever.’’

So Blake is at spring training not only honing his swing, but trying to pump himself up mentally.

"I know I’ve been through it before, but each year you get older,’’ he said. "Part of you says, 'Do you still got it? Can you still do it?’ I try to remove any doubt when it enters my mind, just knowing I’ve done it year after year and I’m going to do it again. Just be patient, have confidence.’’

There goes that confidence thing again. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to interview him or give him a pat on the back. All this came from some innocent question about whether he was approaching this season differently than in the past.

If he’s haunted by the seven troubling years it took him to finally make it in the majors, he at least is trying to use it as motivation.

"The good thing about it is that I do care,’’ he said. "I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist, but I’m never satisfied. I’m pretty hard on myself. I’m real hard on myself. It doesn’t matter if I’m hitting .330, I’m the type thinking I should be hitting .400. It seems like no matter what I’m hitting, I should always be doing better.’’

In his first 13 at-bats of the spring, his confidence is looking just fine. He’s batting .385 (five for 13), with a home run, four runs and three RBIs. What kind of numbers could he put up if he ever really believed in himself?

Confidence and Blake, however,  seem to have a tenuous relationship.

--Steve Dilbeck, reporting from Phoenix
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