Padres MLN: Winds of change

Peoria, AZ-- One thing that has become obvious in Peoria is the amount of adjustments continually being made. Hitters are working on stances and balance in the box – an effort to produce more power and better results at the higher levels rather than success on the farm.

One of the more common practices, especially among "power hitters" is standing up a little taller in the box.

Last year, players like Craig Cooper, Chad Huffman, Jeremy Hunt and even Kyle Blanks (if you can believe a 6-foot-6 hitter can) had more pronounced crouches in their batting stance.

It was a catch-22 in a sense.

The path to the ball was shorter with players exploding out of their stances but the power was diminished because the flight path to the ball didn't give them the traditional backswing trigger that sets the bat in motion coming forward.

Instead, it was a little bit more pulling through the zone and didn't make use of the torso and body to add the extra bat speed.

The problem was compounded as some of these prospects could not make the adjustments to pull inside pitches – and would potentially miss them altogether because of the big ball affect – the eyes get wide when the ball comes inside because it looks so big and since the reaction time is late it resulted in misses or balls being shot the opposite way with little power.

Now, all of these players are making adjustments. Cooper had the toughest crouch to overcome – and is still finding himself. He sat like a panther in the box and has struggled in maintaining consistency with his stance, prone to crouch more than the Padres want throughout spring training one day and standing taller the next.

"That is one of the things I worked on in Instructs with (hitting coordinator) Rob Deer," Cooper said. "I stand up a little bit taller. I was very low and I felt like it gave me a good center of balance. Now, I have the same balance and can free up the hips to drive the ball a little more."

That remains a work in progress and one he hopes to iron out before spring training ends.

Huffman and Hunt have bought into the program and while Huffman has adjusted well to the new stance and looks natural with the timing, Hunt is still working on finding the different timing associated with the new look.

The taller stance changes the timing mechanism and swings have to be started at a different pace to get all the torque behind it. That is a challenge for someone who has been so used to a particular chance and has to change.

"A little different. It is the same stuff but getting into a rhythm," Hunt said. "Last year, once I started it took me a while to get my timing down but once I did it took off."

Blanks has totally revised his stance. He used to stand with bat on shoulders, ala Paul Bunyan. Now the axe stands by itself in the air and he does not have to go as far back with the bat as he used to giving him more potential to hit the inside pitch and drive the ball with his massive frame.

The hope for Blanks is to tap into the power source he has and make use of more of his body. He has been more of a hands hitter in the past – meaning he didn't use his lower body as effectively as the next person.


The major league side of the facility continues to bring minor league prospects over – giving them some game time with the big boys.

One prospect the big league club continues to call upon is outfielder Drew Macias. Macias has been in nearly every game over the last week as a defensive replacement for the starters.

Manager Bud Black has appreciated his defensive skills and is very confident that Macias will make the plays – including some of the tough ones. Macias has also shown good hustle on the basepaths.

Juan Ciriaco hasn't made many waves on the minor league side of the field but went 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI in the Padres game against Oakland. He is now 3-for-5 with two doubles on that side of the field.

Michael Campbell made his debut, singling in his lone at bat. He joins Cedric Hunter and Jesus Lopez as the only 1.000 hitters this spring. All have received one at bat with the big league club.

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