Fort Wayne TinCaps Notebook III

Fort Wayne, IN: Rarely do players enter the system with flawless hitting mechanics. Changes are made with a consistent approach and some unconventional means. Short to the ball, backspin, staying inside the ball all mean something. All of those principles are being applied in Fort Wayne.

  • Dan Robertson and Adam Zornes had the early work with hitting coach Tom Tornicasa.

    The strange drills he pushed them through were all in an effort to bring the fundamental hitting mechanics together.

    In one drill, he had the hitters taking multiple steps forward before striking a ball off the tee. Again, the focus was first on getting all the weight transferred to the back foot before exploding forward.

    Also, the three hinges of hitting were being applied. The shoulder is the first to move, followed by the elbow and the hands follow through last.

    Tornicasa implemented many of these drills so the hitter could gain a better feel for their own swing and understand when one of the mechanics experience a fault.

    Getting long – where the hands release before the elbow has driven downward into the zone – becomes clearer to feel.

    "Let your hands do the work," Tornicasa said. "Don't let the shoulder lead. The backside should lead the front side."

    Along with his reminders, Tornicasa maintains that proper mechanics also mean the hitter does not need to swing so hard. The natural propulsion of the lower body in sync with hands, elbow and shoulder will do the majority of the work. Keeping the hands ‘inside the ball' means the hands don't fly away from the body as soon as the swing begins – which makes a long swing that has a tough time catching up with fastballs or adjusting to breaking balls.

    Periodically, Tornicasa would ask, "Can you feel the difference?"

    And both Zornes and Robertson would say what they did well or what they didn't do as well.

    It was a learning process that each credit in making them better hitters. Zornes has further to go, as his swing is long.

    "On the breaking ball, you are already coming around," minor league field coordinator Tom Gamboa said of Zornes' natural swing. "The more you do this, the more natural it will seem. You have been doing this your whole life. Don't be discouraged. You will start doing it once every three at-bats and soon it will be once every two at-bats. You will become more compact. The breaking ball won't be such a mystery."

    Robertson responded with a 3-for-4 day that included three runs scored, a homer and two RBI. Zornes had the night off.

  • Like yesterday and every day since he has arrived in Fort Wayne, Yefri Carvajal tracked pithces while the pitchers threw their bullpen sessions. He simply stood in the box and watched each pitch come to the catcher, going through his normal stride and separation.

    He also worked with Tornicasa for the second straight day. The muscle memory came through in a big way during batting practice. Carvajal crushed some balls to all parts of the field and had both Tornicasa and minor league field coordinator Tom Gamboa praising his efforts.

    "It is all about finding that consistency and knowing how to fix it when things aren't going right," Tornicasa said.

    Carvajal did not carry into the game, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

  • Simon Castro threw a bullpen session on Saturday and flashed several impressive changeups.

    While everyone has always known his fastball is terrific when he works down in the zone, the changeup has been the one pitch that has eluded him, largely because he could not keep a consistent arm speed.

    With his delivery now more over the top than in the past, Castro was delivering the ball with consistent arm speed and getting the movement he was looking for.

    "It has come a long way," catcher Robert Lara, who caught him, said. "When he first threw it, you couldn't see a speed difference. Now, it is evident."

    Michael Watt also hurled his side session and was focusing on the curveball and fastball command.

    When he brought the hammer in the zone, it looked near impossible to hit. The ball has a lot of movement across the zone as well as down and quite a few would land outside of the zone.

    The fastball also has good movement but needs to be thrown down in the zone to eliminate the mistake pitch that hitters crush.

    "He was working on the curveball, which looked good," said Lara. "He has to just keep the fastball down and it is really tough when he does."

  • Jeudy Valdez said it will be "one more week" until he gets the cast off. At that time, the infielder will test it off the tee before moving to batting practice. The estimated time for his return is still likely three weeks.
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