The Chattanooga Lookouts are 20 games into their Southern League season, and they do not resemble last September's team that won the championship.
That's fine with them. After all, it's still April.facebook
"We don't get too wrapped up in April numbers," Lookouts second-year manager Doug Mientkiewicz said. "We just try to keep building them and get better for the long haul, and the luxury of having two halves is that you can start over at the halfway point if it doesn't work out in the first half.
"We've got a long way to go, and this team will settle down. Once we get our identity, we'll get better as it goes along."
The Lookouts defeated Birmingham, 10-7, Tuesday night before a crowd of 3,702 at AT&T Field. The win was the third in five games against the Barons, clinching the first series for Chattanooga, which lost previous series to Biloxi, Jackson and Mississippi and has an 8-12 record.
Lookouts right fielder Daniel Palka hit a grand slam to right-center field Tuesday in the third inning, turning a 5-3 deficit into a 7-5 advantage.
With several pieces back from last season's title team, there was a natural desire for many Lookouts to pick up where they left off. That led to several players pressing to try to quickly recapture the magic.
Mientkiewicz noticed that in the first few days of the season — the Lookouts opened in Biloxi and lost four of five — and Palka noticed it as well. Palka, who is hitting a team-best .338, didn't even play in the Minnesota Twins organization last year.
"You could definitely see it," Palka said. "Everybody had a good year last year, so they want to have a good year this year and maybe put a little bit of extra pressure there."
Palka went 4-for-4 Sunday afternoon and 2-for-3 Monday night, and his 3-for-4 showing Tuesday gives him a 9-for-11 plate performance in his last three games.
"I think we're still searching for an identity," Mientkiewicz said. "We have some guys who are adjusting to the Double-A level, and we've had our struggles offensively, which was to be expected with some of our guys. We show it in spurts, but we haven't put it together collectively for three or four days in a row yet."
The Lookouts are off today before continuing their 10-game homestand Thursday night against Montgomery.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.