Eugene Emeralds Notebook II

Eugene, OR: The transformation of swings is one of the first steps to being successful in professional baseball. There are few major leaguers who can grip it and rip it. There is a method and rhythm to the madness. Those teachings are occurring daily in the land of Emeralds.

  • Everything starts with simplicity. The introduction of a wood bat swing versus a aluminum is a gentle process that will not happen overnight.

    The exodus from using an entire bat to get a hit – getting jammed and still delivering a ball to the outfield – are over.

    "You have a smaller barrel," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "You only have three to six inches to use."

    The long, loopy swing that produced towering home runs has become extinct.

    That means change is inevitable.

    Short, compact strokes that produce a level swing through the hitting zone is the goal. If you can increase the surface level with which to hit – the odds of making hard contact increase.

    Without adjustment, the bat head is only in the zone for a mere fraction of time and loops out. With a wood bat – career suicide ensues sans change.

    Key words – "Load, elbow, wrist," said hitting coach Eric Peyton.

    Those catch phrases are the components of a good swing.

    Getting a good load – where the weight transfers to the back foot. Transfer the weight forward as the elbow stays locked through the first part of the swing. Once the hands are roughly in the vicinity of the front leg, the wrists can turn.

    "Palm up, palm down," manager Greg Riddoch yells.

    If the hands are turned, there is no stability in the arm. The ball will either be popped up or topped into the ground. By keeping the hands parallel to the ground in a palm up/down formation, the natural velocity of the swing is maintained and hard contact can happen.

    "We were really working on staying inside the ball," outfielder Bo Davis said. "It is new to us with the wood bat. By staying inside the ball, it will help us drive it."

    "Don't let the top hand lead," Riddoch reminds his pupils.

    The drill – off a tee – hit the ball to the opposite field and try to pang the rock off an 8-by-8 screen sitting about 10-feet off the infield dirt.

    "By putting the screen out there, it puts pressue on them like the game," Riddoch said. "It puts the crow in the stands like a game."

    "We are trying to give them a vision of hitting the ball to a specific spot," Peyton said. "Instead of talking mechanics – we are introducing a visual so the mechanics take care of themselves."

    To make it happen – the ball had to be hit on a line. Nothing in the air was going to do it. The contact had to be just right – meaning the basic fundamentals of a solid swing plane and load, elbow, wrist, had to be entwined as one.

    "Hit the inside of the ball, get your hands inside the ball," Riddoch explained of the goal. "If you will notice the two seams of the ball line up directly – if they hit the outside seam the head of the bat gets their firs and they are rolling over."

    Bo Davis failed to make it happen – sending balls wide of the mark.

    Jason Codiroli hit the screen on one hop – seemingly getting better after a brief respite to reinstill the concepts.

    Chadd Hartman thought he had it – throwing the bat high in the air.

    "Chi Chi Rodriguez a little premature," Riddoch said when the ball floated over the screen.

    Kyle Loretelli – the last hurrah – had a tough time early on He was hitting balls all over the field until Fuson interjected the principles in a different way. Loretelli then locked and loaded – smacked one off the fence to his delight.

    "It is a visual to see the backspin on the ball," Riddoch said. "When they hit it on the outside, they can see the roll over.

    "For me, teaching wise, it helps because the brain sees everything the eye can see."

    The reward – he didn't have to pick up any of the balls littering the outfield.

  • Chris Fetter had his second round of bullpen in between starts. The right-hander is still working on perfecting his slider.

    "I am working on the off-speed," Fetter said. "They want me to throw the slider instead of the curveball."

    In his last outing, Fetter was fastball heavy. The Padres want him to begin mixing his pitches more effectively.

    "I think I threw 68 fastballs out of my 75 pitches," Fetted confided of his last outing. "I am starting to get a good feel for the slider now."

    Also working a side session was Nick Greenwood. With his catcher sitting in front of the plate, Greenwood was working on general command of his pitches down in the zone.

    "Nick has a great changeup," catcher Emmanuel Quiles said. "He hits his spots with his fastball.

    "By sitting in front of the plate, he can work on keeping the ball down in the zone – throwing the fastball and changeup down."

  • Fuson pitched a round of batting practice and plunked Hartman.
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