Once refined, Carter's raw talent can shine bright

Once refined, Carter's raw talent can shine bright

Once refined, Carter's raw talent can shine bright

HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder Chris Carter smiled and talked politely with reporters Wednesday afternoon about how he has hit better on the road than at home this season and what it meant to him to play every day for the first time in the Majors.

But he knew the question was coming. Why has Chris Carter struck out 200 times this year? He tries not to think about it, but he knows he can't avoid the subject.

"Everybody's talking about it, but I just try to have good at-bats," he said.

To put Carter's struggles in perspective, he shattered Houston's club record of 145 strikeouts in a season set by Lee May in 1972.

Carter has struck out more than anyone in the Majors this season, leading Chris Davis of Baltimore by 16 and Adam Dunn of the White Sox by 20. Pedro Alvarez of Pittsburgh leads the National League with 177 whiffs.

Some of Carter's other numbers are more respectable: 27 home runs, 77 RBIs and a team-best 64 walks. He knows his .218 batting average needs to be better.

"I don't want to be a guy who either strikes out or hits a home run," he said. "I want to be around .290. I want to be a complete hitter. I've got to get the strikeouts down and the average up."

The Astros wanted Carter for his power when they acquired him in February in a trade with Oakland.

The 6-4, 240-pound Carter hit 16 homers with 39 RBIs in 67 games for the A's last season.

"No one ever said you're the home-run hitter, or anything like that to me," Carter said of joining the Astros. "I try to hit line drives and whatever happens, happens."

Astros manager Bo Porter knows he has a raw talent in Carter.

"If you ask him to go up to the plate and just put the ball in play, would that take away from his raw power?" Porter said. "It's almost like you want to find some kind of balance in between. Do we want him to cut down on the strikeouts? Yes. That's hitting the fastball in the strike zone. If he's able to make that one adjustment, the strikeouts will greatly go down."

Carter has played left field, first base and designated hitter this season, playing in 137 games.

"I'm happier to be playing every day," he said after being used primarily against left-handers with the A's. "I'm trying to make the best of the [opportunity] and be consistent."

Carter, 26, was thrust into a veteran's role with the young Astros.

"At Oakland I was a rookie, one of the younger guys on the team," he said. "Here everybody's younger than me by three or four years. People ask me questions. I try my best to help out when I can."

"You look at this as his first opportunity to play every day," Porter said. "You have to take the good and look at the good. If he's able to finish the season with 30 home runs and 80 RBIs, you say here's a guy who did this in his first full season. But you also see if you have information that you can present to him that will help cut down on the strikeouts.

"Don't change anything with your swing. Don't change anything in your attack of the ball. Just straighten out a couple of aspects of your approach and you may have a 40-home run, 100-RBI guy. He's already a guy who walks."

Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.