"Lets let them play and relax," said Lezcano. "Some of them might struggle a little bit. That happened last year when we struggled early, even though we had some great hitters. I don't want to put added pressure on a young player."
That strategy has paid off. The Storm had four players in the top 10 in hitting heading into Thursday's game. They also lead the league in hitting with a .312 average, top the circuit in walks and are last in strikeouts.
That is a pretty good resume to begin the year.
As for the running game that Lezcano promised, the Storm have just 12 thefts with Javis Diaz accounting for five of those.
"We still will let them swing the bat but in certain situations we can run a little more," Lezcano qualified.
On the other side of the diamond, working on keeping runners close to the bag and quickening deliveries has been a focal point – throughout the system.
With the big league club struggling in that regard, the team has put an emphasis on slide steps home.
Last year, the mantra was not to mess with pitchers until they reached Double-A. This appears to be a role-reversal in the learning process.
"In Spring Training, we had a policy where we wanted to keep it at 1.4 (seconds) and under. The guys that were 1.5 to 1.6 – there is no chance for the catcher to throw the guy out. We implemented that in spring and some of these guys made progress."
What else can be instituted to keep the runner from taking a bag?
"You can also hold the ball, throw over, pitch out – there are things we can do to hold that runner and control it a little bit. Different looks, slide-steps."
The Storm were 8-6 – a game back of High Desert – prior to Thursday's game against Modesto. Coming within an inch of a Championship last season, one would have to believe the talk this season would be about winning that final game and taking home a California League crown.
That, however, is not the mark of success, according to Lezcano.
"What is going to make it successful is to see my players get better. Sometimes, it is too much about wins and losses; see these guys get better and when the last game is played, they are a better player than when they walked in."
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