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Dutton's struggles not evident of his capability
Slugging second baseman Brad Dutton has yet to find his groove this season for the Bandits
12/07/2012 2:22 AM ET
Veteran slugger Brad Dutton has gotten off to a slow start this season
Veteran slugger Brad Dutton has gotten off to a slow start this season (Ryan Schembri / SMP Images)
Without times of struggle, times of triumph might be indistinguishable.

The Brisbane Bandits are certainly hoping that Brad Dutton can make that distinction and find his way back to triumphant times very soon. The usually slugging suspect has gotten off to a slow start to the season and getting his groove back might be the very thing the team needs to help them beat the first-place Perth Heat.

As Brisbane heads on the road to the west coast for Round Six of the Australian Baseball League, brought to you by 'Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking', the organisation has taken some heat for keeping its struggling second baseman in the lineup throughout his battle at the plate.

When times are tough, nothing seems to go your way. This could not have been more evident in the third game of Brisbane's four-game series against the Sydney Blue Sox when Dutton came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded, one out, and his team down by one.

The 30-year-old hit the ball hard on the ground between first and second. When it normally might have found the gap and rolled into right field for an RBI-single, this ball found the glove of Sydney's second baseman and he ended the game with a double play, sending Dutton and the Bandits to the showers after a heartbreaking loss.

But Brisbane manager Kevin Jordan never had any thoughts of sending anyone else up to the plate. Dutton was his man, is his man, and will continue to be exactly the kind of man he wants facing the opposition in just that situation.

"He's been scuffling obviously," Jordan said. "As a team, everyone sitting on that bench thought that he was going to come through. That to me is always a good sign if you've got a guy up there who has proven that he can drive runs in and has a history of being big in those situations. Obviously we'd like the outcome to be different but it is what it is...

"The thing about it is you know you're going to be in those situations again. You try to learn from all experiences, good or bad. That right there, it was an [at-bat] where he hit the ball hard. He just hit it at him. Unfortunately when things aren't going your way, things like that happen. When things are going your way as a hitter, that ball is in the hole and it's a tie ballgame."

A veteran of seven years in the big leagues and 11 seasons in the minors, Jordan knows firsthand what struggle can feel like. He developed his own personal strategy to deal with it over time, and has tried to relay it to his current players in an attempt to help them dig their way out of whatever holes they find themselves in.

"I wrote down a lot of stuff and I just tried to go back through it," the second-year skipper said. "The longer you've played, the more of a history you have in this game, good or bad. I just tried to go back and remember my good history, of the times where I did what I did in those situations when I was going well, the things that I did to get me back on track. That's what helped me."

Dutton has plenty of good history to look back upon, even just dating back to last season. Constantly playing through injury, the Brisbane native suited up for every one of the Bandits 45 games last year. He batted .300/.340/.400 with four home runs and 24 RBI, a far cry from his numbers so far early this season.

But he will soon start to get back to where Brisbane knows he can be. The good news for Bandits fans is that the team veteran has plenty of room for improvement and it won't take long for him to get on a streak heading in the other direction. He might have already started, as he notched two hits, including a double, in his most recent game on Sunday against Sydney.

And if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, right?

Dutton isn't the only Bandits slugger to find himself not quite in mid-season form through the first five rounds of the ABL either. First baseman David Sutherland hasn't yet looked like himself at the plate, but Jordan believes that with time they will both get there.

"They're close, but they're still not where we want them to be and I'm sure they'd say the same," the manager said. "But a lot of it is just timing and being able to put enough good [at-bats] together and they haven't been able to string enough good at-bats together. But it is what it is.

"We're fortunate in that we've still be able to [find ways to win] when we have two of our best hitters who haven't been swinging the bat the way we know they're capable of."

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.