Bichette Not Letting Up

TRENTON, NJ - After his rebound 2014 campaign earned him a late-season promotion to the Thunder, Dante Bichette Jr. has continued that success in his first 12 games in 2015. For Bichette, the major change in his game this season is focusing on not changing at all actually. He’s just trying to bring forth the same game plan daily, rather than constantly trying new things.

“I want to throw my same approach out there every single day and basically just get better and better at it as I go,” he said. “Throughout playing and seeing pitches is how you’ll get better and learn different things about yourself. Right now, I’m just trying to stick to an approach and go out there and have fun.”

During the offseason, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound infielder wanted to become an all-around better player and started his path to achieving that goal in the weight room, training with his father and ex-Rockie great, Dante Bichette Sr.

“I reported in the best shape I’ve been in yet,” Bichette said. “I lost some body fat percentage, but kept my weight right around the same, so I stayed strong, and I just came back more athletic and ready to go.”

Rather than work too closely under his father’s instruction, Bichette wanted to discover what kind of player he is and what kind of player he can be on his own.

“He [Dante Bichette Sr.] didn’t have me do too much things this offseason,” he said. “He just kind of let me take it. And I told him that I wanted to take things under my own hands this year, and really make things happen myself. It’s part of growing up, it’s part of maturing, so I was happy I was able to do that.”

Now that Bichette’s training has paid immediate dividends, hitting coach P.J. Piliterre warns that Bichette must avoid getting caught up in the numbers now that they count.

“I think his start to the season has been great,” Piliterre said. “It’s been what has been expected of him, but at the same time, it’s a lot easier to commit to something in Spring Training when you know stats don’t really count and now the numbers are being attached to your name.”

Although Bichette has yet to crack more than 11 home runs in a season, manager Al Pedrique trusts the power is there for the burly slugger, and supposes that a more patient approach will bring Bichette to that next level.

“He’s trying to use the other side of the field,” Pedrique said. “He has a lot of power the other way. In the past, he wanted to pull everything. When he’s ahead in the count, he used to get real big, and he would take some wild swing.

"Now I see a kid that is more calm, he’s hitting the ball where it’s pitched, and if he does that, he’s going to show some power to right center, and he’s going to surprise some people."

No matter how well Bichette performs at the plate, he is currently without a natural position. However, Pedrique finds ways to work him into the lineup, whether it be splitting time with Eric Jagielo at third base, simply being the designated hitter, or spelling Greg Bird at first.

In the game against the Portland Sea Dogs on April 11, Bichettte was in the lineup at third base, and was immediately tested on a bunt attempt by Marco Hernandez in the first inning. According to Pedrique, this type of play must be made in order for Bichette to have a future as a third baseman.

“He didn’t get a lot of chances,” Pedrique said. “I think it was the bunt play, he didn’t have anything behind the throw. The reason was because he was playing deep on a guy that can bunt. That’s the one thing he needs to be consistent with. Reading the runners, or the guys that like to bunt, trying to take it away, make them swing the bat. He likes to play back, so he forces those guys to bunt on him because he loves to make those barehanded plays.”

Even though Bichette has a lot of work cut out for him on both sides of the ball, every game he plays makes him feel as if he’s one step closer to playing in the major leagues.

“Last year was a bounce back year for me, but this year, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel here in Double-A,” he said. “You’ve got something really pushing you and you want to get there, so you don’t let up.”

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