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    Brent Abernathy is a perfectionist!

    All Abernathy wants is to do things perfectly
    His bat a given, Rays second baseman has spent spring upgrading his glovework.
    By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times
    published March 22, 2002


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    JUPITER -- The youngster didn't watch Braves games the way other 6-year-olds might.

    Brent Abernathy absorbed them.

    "I would watch entire baseball games on TV," said the Rays second baseman, a native of Atlanta. "We'd go to Fulton County Stadium and I remember being there when there were 3,000 people in the stands.

    "I just loved watching the game. That's my biggest strength ... my knowledge of the way things should be done."

    No nonsense.

    That pretty much describes Abernathy's attitude when he's in uniform.

    The 24-year-old is a perfectionist, almost to a fault, and expects the same from his teammates.

    "I don't ever accept anything," Abernathy said. "If I hit .300 I want to hit .320 or whatever the case might be. I always expect more of myself. I never am happy with anything. Sometimes I think that I put a little too much pressure on myself to do some things that aren't really within the realm of my capabilities."

    But just because something might be out of the realm of his capabilities doesn't mean he won't try to attain it.

    Take Abernathy's defensive play.

    "Mainly I noticed his quickness in the field (last season)," manager Hal McRae said. "He had to get better jumps on balls."

    Always counted on to make the routine plays -- he had a .981 fielding percentage in 366 chances after being recalled from Triple-A Durham on June 25 -- Abernathy entered spring training focused on improving his lateral range and ability to read grounders.

    "I feel very good about the way I've played defensively," he said. "My hitting is suffering a little bit because of it. But I'm really not worried about that too much.

    "I've hit everywhere I've gone. It's one of those things where it will take a couple good days in a row and I'll be fine."

    Abernathy has been a steady offensive player since his minor-league days. He batted .303 with 26 homers and 226 RBIs in 539 games from Class A to Triple A.

    After getting called up in June and homering in his first at-bat in Boston, Abernathy hit .270 with 17 doubles, five home runs and 33 RBIs in 79 games.

    It has been a challenging 12 months.

    "It's been a whirlwind ever since spring training last year," he said. "I've been here. I've been there. I've been injured. I've been healthy. On the field things happen. Off the field things happen.

    "It's been an adjustment. I've got other responsibilities, and I've got to deal with those with baseball. Whereas in the past I just went and played baseball."

    One challenge this spring is not neglecting his offense while focusing so much on defense.

    Before homering against the Expos on Thursday, his first of the spring, Abernathy had the lowest average (.195) of anybody who had played in at least 14 games.

    "He's trying to pull (the ball) too much," McRae said. "He needs to get hits, but there's no reason to press. He's in the process of getting ready for the season. He's not in a competition at second base."

    Last year he was. Bobby Smith won the job and Abernathy was sent to Durham after spring training.

    This year, his spot is secure, and he has little to worry about.

    An improved won-loss record this spring would sweeten things more, particularly for someone who never played on a losing team until reaching the majors.

    "I'm ready to start getting some adrenaline going and start playing some games that really mean something to what we're trying to do here," Abernathy said. "I think a successful season would be knowing everyday that we come to the stadium that we've got a chance to win. No more walking into a stadium where you can just sense from the team that it doesn't matter what we do, we're not going to win.

    "At some point in time you've got to have a winning attitude and you've got to show up to the field knowing that if you play your best baseball you can win the game. No matter."

    No nonsense.
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