Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett Braves player Joey Terdoslavich, right, slaps hands with hitting coach Jamie Dismuke prior to a game against the Louisville Bats played at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville on Tuesday.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Before his demotion to Class AA last season, it was easy to find Joey Terdoslavich after a game.
The preseason hyped third baseman spent almost every game in the Gwinnett Braves' film room watching his swing, over and over, in every at-bat. It made sense for a guy hitting well below .200. Before games he took plenty of ground balls at third. With 22 errors in 53 games, again, he seemed to be working on the right things.
In spite of the time, nothing changed. Press-box psychology attributed his struggles to his preseason anointing as the next third baseman for the Atlanta Braves followed by a dovetailing of failures first in his new position in the field and then at the plate.
"Who knows?" he says now. "Honestly, I don't think I struggled offensively because of my defense and I don't think I struggled defensively because of my offensive. I think it was offense because of my swing and defense I wasn't quite ready to take up full-time third baseman."
In his hours watching film he examined his swing. Early in the season, the switch-hitter identified a "hitch" in his swing that had him down and didn't allow him to see pitches long enough. When the pitch to hit came, he'd foul it off.
He can't explain his defensive struggles as clearly. Though he doesn't run from them.
"I didn't feel like I quite had enough work in there yet," he said. "I had played third in the past and I played it well. I took a year and a half off playing third to play first base. It's a reaction position, it's just like hitting. I wasn't quite ready."
The confluence of struggle found Terdoslavich down in Mississippi, a far fall for a once-budding major leaguer. They moved him to first where his defense was inconsistent at best, but he had worked through his hitch and found his powerful bat. He hit .315 in his time in Class AA. A far cry from his .180 with the G-Braves.
"I got my swing right. It's unfortunate that it happened at the beginning of the season last year," he said. "I didn't think it was all bad. I think I learned a lot. I learned how to deal with failure. I think it showed a lot of my character to be able to go down and take my demotion the right way. I wanted to fix my season."
He probably fixed his career.
Rather than sulk, he just kept working. Working on his swing and working on his defense at first base.
"You have two options, either you pony up or you don't," G-Braves manager Randy Ready said of Terdoslavich's options last year. "He did that in Mississippi and he got it going."
Then came the offseason. Terdoslavich learned he was moving to the outfield, a position he played less than third base and he became more comfortable with his improved swing.
"He came into major league camp and he was confident and he said, 'I am way better than this,'" Ready said. "From a maturation standpoint he was going to be up to the task at hand starting 2013 in triple-A."
He hasn't disappointed. Entering Wednesday he was hitting .328 with the G-Braves with 19 doubles and eight home runs. He's the only G-Braves regular hitting over .300. Outfield is still a learning process, but the position gives him more time to adjust on balls hit his way.
"There are still things I have to learn," he said. "In the outfield, you are never going to see the same ball twice. I haven't seen (many) of those balls yet. The other outfielders are helping me out, Todd (Cunningham) and Jose (Constanza) and everybody are helping me out with things that they've learned in the outfield. I just continue to learn and continue to work at it and slow the game down out there."
The numbers look better. Terdoslavich looks better. But what the 24-year-old proved isn't that he could hit or that he would work endlessly on his defense. He proved he had the mental power to play professional baseball.
"That's as hard as times are going to get, everybody goes through it. At some point in their career there has not been one guy that hasn't struggled. You just have to know how to deal with it. I had never struggled before. It was a tough time for me, but I learned," he said. "I don't know any other way. That's the way I was raised, keep fighting, keep grinding. If you want something bad enough you are going to figure it out."