Houston's Carter Quietly Contending for HR Title

Carter hit .270 last month to raise his average to .227 and leads the league by averaging a home run once in every 13 at-bats.

"It's nice to be recognized as something more than somebody who just strikes out a bunch and might hit a few homers," he said. "It's just nice to have a feeling where people are like: 'This guy can actually hit,' now instead of just being a one-dimensional kind of player."

He credits his improvement to changes made after being benched for three games in late May. He was asked about what changed so often that he would roll his eyes when queried about it again and again as his season took off. The easy answer is that he worked with hitting coach John Mallee to shorten his swing. A more complex explanation is that now every swing he takes means something.

"Before I was just swinging to be swinging just because this is what we're doing and we're in BP," he said. "Just taking swings. There wasn't really a real purpose or focus on it. So now I'm emphasizing more focus on what I'm doing."

Carter finds it odd that he's known solely as a home run hitter. It certainly wasn't always the case.

He hit less than 10 homers as a high school senior. A third baseman with a wiry 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame, Carter wasn't projected to be a power hitter.

By 2008, he had grown into what he calls "this body" and morphed into a slugger. That season he hit 39 homers in Class A Stockton and his role in the majors was set.

"You grow three inches and gain like 60 pounds and it changes everything," he said with a laugh.

He believes he's capable of hitting 40 home runs and is excited about the possibility of leading the league in long balls. But even that wouldn't satisfy him.

"Personally I would know that there was more I could have done better," he said. "Even though I hit 40 I know that I could still hit better than .220, .225 or whatever. I still know I could hit around .280, .300. But I can't be just content with hitting 40 and .220 every year."

"It would be successful, but it's not successful at the same time," he said.

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