Kyle Higashioka, a 6-foot, 205-pound catcher from Huntington Beach, CA entered the 2011 Spring Training and season looking to refine his hitting approach after playing the 2010 season in Low-A Charleston.
Batting .225 with 72 hits in 90 games in 2010, Higashioka had a slow start to the season hitting but the second half of the year improved for him in the right direction.
In 2011, however, another slow start has affected Higashioka and his batting numbers have been decreasing. Carrying a .211 batting average in 20 games this season; Higashioka knows what he has to do to improve his hitting game.
"I have been struggling a little lately but I am trying to refine my hitting approach and stay consistent with hitting line drives. Sometimes I get away from that and that's when I start to struggle," Higashioka said.
With recent struggles at the plate, Tampa Yankees batting coach Justin Turner believes that it doesn't only take hard work for Higashioka to get better, but also staying focused on his overall approach.
"In Spring Training we worked with [Kyle] on trying to get that good pitch to handle and hitting it hard up the middle," Turner said. "He has just enough pop in his bat to be a scary hitter and that can sometimes get him off of what he's trying to do."
The approach for Higashioka that Turner is instilling has been simple, using the middle of the field, getting gap-line drives and trying not to lift the ball.
According to Turner he is very pleased with the way Higashioka has been working to improve on his game but at times he believes that the catcher needs to trust himself more at the plate.
"He's an extremely hard worker and I'm pleased with the way he is trying to get better, but in games I sometimes don't know if he trusts his approach all the time. One thing is for sure though, when he does trust it, he does very well," Turner said.
With a goal of staying consistent for Higashioka, he also has realized other important aspects that he has to improve on.
"There are definitely times I get a little pull happy but lately I have been trying to stay on the right side of the field and making sure I trust myself to react to inside pitches," said Higashioka.
As the Tampa Yankees have struggled lately losing nine in a row before snapping the losing streak with a home win on Saturday night against Lakeland, Tampa manager Luis Sojo has noticed the team play as whole, not just individual hardships like Higashioka's.
"As a team we have been struggling and all of our players have been working hard to get better, we have a very hard working team," Sojo said. "As for [Kyle] he has to keep battling, he is a competitive kid and is a great learner who wants to learn."
At times in baseball mechanics are the reason a player struggles, but in Higashioka's case, Sojo believes it is just part of the game.
"That's baseball. It doesn't matter what you're doing everyday in the cage or in batting practice, some days and weeks just don't go the way you plan them to go," said Sojo. "Although when things start going his way again, he must take advantage of it. That's the game of baseball."
As Higashioka enters into mid-May form, all it takes is some flow of hits to get him back into form.
"I notice my struggles lately but all I'm trying to do is a get a string of hits going. Once I do that and I stick to my approach, I see good things to come," Higashioka said.
Higashioka Learning To Trust His Approach
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