Durham MVP Belnome making an impression

Durham MVP Belnome making an impression

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Vince Belnome was the Most Valuable Player of Triple-A Durham in his first season in the Rays' organization -- and second at the Triple-A level -- after he was acquired in a Minor League trade from San Diego the previous December.

A native of Coatesville, Pa., Belnome has already caught the attention of manager Joe Maddon.

"The ability to work an at-bat, he's got a definite idea about what he's doing up there," Maddon said. "He just knows what he's doing. The ball goes to left-center a lot. And he hits it hard over there. See, I didn't know he hit the ball as hard as he did. That's the one thing. The ball comes off his bat pretty well. I'm really focusing on the opposite gap. When a guy can do that, he's a pretty good hitter."

Belnome noted that he's just trying to take full advantage of his opportunity.

"Going out there and trying to have good at-bats," Belnome said. "I look at myself as somebody who goes up there trying to have a quality at-bat. I'm trying to hit the ball hard somewhere.

"Lately my timing's been feeling off. That's what Spring Training is kind of for, get ready for the season. I'm just trying to take stuff from the older guys who have been in the Major Leagues, and hopefully if it's not at the end of camp, sometime getting up there and helping these guys win."

Belnome, who played first base against the Yankees on Wednesday, split time between first base (63 games), third base (32), second base (13), and designated hitter (17) in 2013 with the Bulls, while hitting .300 with eight home runs and 67 RBIs.

Maddon noted that he hasn't really had an opportunity to form an impression about Belnome in the field just yet, though he plans to see him at seven different positions over the course of Spring Training.

Belnome, who will turn 26 on March 11, said a player in his position needs to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.

"There are a bunch of guys with contracts that are going to be on the team," Belnome said. "But for me, you can't look at it like that. You just have to play hard and do what you can do."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.