During the first week of May, it was pretty good to be Kyeong Kang.
In that span, the Biscuits outfielder raised his average 65 points to .279. He hit four home runs in six games, including one that traveled an estimated 500 feet from his bat. At that time, his eight home runs led the Southern League.
"It was awesome," Kang said. "I was getting a lot of fastballs to hit. I was relaxed every time I came up to the box and I felt like I was going to get a hit every time."
For his efforts, he was named the Southern League's Hitter of the Week.
"He's been hitting the ball in the gaps and down the lines. He's a big strong kid and when he makes contact he can drive the ball pretty far," said Biscuits hitting instructor Ozzie Timmons at the time Kang received the acknowledgment.
When asked if Kang, a player who had to force his way into a permanent spot in the batting order, was able to continue his hot hitting throughout the remainder of the season, Timmons said yes but with a sense of caution.
"I think he can maintain this the rest of the season," Timmons said. "But he needs to stay within himself and not think too much about the success he has been having and just let the pitches come to him. He needs to swing at his pitches."
Kang, who has struck out in 59 of his 168 at-bats this season, has stopped doing exactly that or pitchers have just picked up on his approach of hitting the first good fastball he sees.
"I feel like I'm chasing too much," the South Korea native said. "I'm swinging at sliders and curveballs that are away and off the plate."
The poor plate discipline has translated in a drastic decline in his offensive production. Kang has only hit one home run since that first week of May and his average has dipped to .244. In his last 10 games, Kang is 5-for-30 with 14 strikeouts.
While he has flashed his power potential, — he is still fifth in the league in slugging with a .512 mark — Kang does not know exactly why he has been a victim to prolonged slumps. He tried to offer one explanation, however.
"I think about hitting the ball the other way too much," the left-handed slugger said. "I do that instead of trying to just go up the middle and then I chase pitches that are away as a result."
Seven of Kang's home runs have been hit to right field while the other two have been of the opposite field variety.
Left-handers have been Kang's kryptonite all season. He is only 6-45 with zero home runs, two walks and 21 strikeouts.
"There's still a lot he needs to work on and that includes his defense as well," Timmons said.
While Kang's defense tended to jeopardize his playing time last year and early in 2012, it's his power that has landed him a spot on the Southern League All-Star team despite his struggles.
Kang worked on his craft with Timmons early in the season as much as he could, he says, and practiced keeping his hands back, using the whole field and staying within himself.
"I always work hard," Kang said. "I'm going to just keep working hard and make good decisions. I'm going to try and hit the fastball always and early and not think about too much up there."
Will Sammon is the Montgomery Biscuits beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @WillSammon.
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