Mike Baxter planning for a quicker start

Mike Baxter has a new plan. None of this slow start business before getting hotter than a furnace. It starts this off-season – one that Grady Fuson thinks will net him a big season.

Two years running the second half has been significantly better than the first half. How do you explain it?

Mike Baxter: Both second halves in two full seasons have been real good and the first halves have been real bad. I guess this off-season I have to figure out what I have to do different.

Max (Venable) and I have made adjustments at the All-Star break two years in a row. I have to try and carry those adjustments we make over to the first half of the next season.

Once the off-season kicks in you are not swinging the bat every single day. While I don't know your program is it losing the touch along the way?

Mike Baxter: We work out with a couple of pro guys down in Nashville. We get to swing but it is hard to replicate the game feeling. A lot of the adjustments you make in-game and game to game. Sometimes, you work yourself into bad habits hitting off the tee because you can get away with a lot of stuff. That is what we do for a while. I might have to make some adjustments to the program this off-season.

I saw you wearing bands at about your knees late in the year. What was that for?

Mike Baxter: A little tendonitis flared up early in the year and it keeps the pressure off.

Grady Fuson hailed Mike Baxter as a player that made a big jump this year. He said one of the keys for you is to gain some weight this off-season.

Mike Baxter: I didn't know that. I would love to get – I am at 188 right now and lost seven pounds this season – if I can get up to 205 with strong muscle. That is a goal of mine because I know I can carry another 15 or 20 pounds and I think that can really improve my game.

You were originally slated to go to Spring Training with the big league club as part of your contract but ended up not going. Was that your choice?

Mike Baxter: Right. I had discussions with Grady about it. We were trying to find the right time to maximize the opportunity.

Coming off a pretty mediocre year last year – I trained hard for it this past off-season, but we had a couple of discussions over the phone and decided that pushing it off a year physically and just situation-wise would be a better deal for me.

How tough was that to admit to yourself?

Mike Baxter: It was a tough decision – it really was. I had gotten my mind ready for it for a while but I listened to Grady's assessment and I think I made the right choice.

Outfield work – this is two years you have been officially out there since starting at first base. How do you feel?

Mike Baxter: This year was good. I got to bounce around a lot. Last year I played mostly right field and this year I have rotated – almost even everywhere. I played a lot of center when Yordany (Ramirez) moved and left and right when I am not playing center. It has been a great year for me defensively, getting out of my comfort zone in right and learning in the other spots. That might be one of my better assets – being able to play all three spots. I know I still have a lot of work to do out there but I also know I could potentially be a very good outfielder.

You might have seen me even write it since you came out as a first baseman – ‘I expected him to hit for more power.' Because you are manning the corners and in more conventional power spots, do you feel the pressure to hit more homers?

Mike Baxter: It's the last thing – I really wish I could and I think I will. I know I can hit a ball over the fence. I always talk to people and it is a matter of translating it into a game. It is learning how to do it in a game situation. I feel like I have power in my frame. I think it will come with time.

I have to be a more consistent hitter first. I have to learn how to be a consistent hitter over the course of a year and then from there I can worry about putting up better power numbers.

You mentioned two years in a row making adjustments at the plate. Were they similar adjustments?

Mike Baxter: Similar in a sense. Last year it was just trying to let the ball travel deeper at the half. This year, I had moved on top of the plate and the second half they tried to keep me back. I think that is going to help me hit for more power.

A lot of times I have been a front foot hitter and drifted out a little bit, relying on my hand/eye coordination.

A lot of my repetition this off-season will be staying back on the ball and off the back side – trying to make a stronger base where I can use my hands and the rest of my body.

Is that an effort to also hit the ball the other way with more authority?

Mike Baxter: When I am going well that is what is happening – I am hitting the ball the other way. I hit a couple of balls the other way when I was making a conscious effort and I noticed there was a considerable difference in the pop.

I am going to take advantage of the time I have this off-season to really drill that in and focus on that for the first time rather than focusing on bat plane – which I have done in the past, trying to work on top of the ball. This year I am going to work on weight distribution and keeping everything back. That is one of my goals.

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