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CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Mike Schmidt changed his stance, tinkered with his mechanics and did whatever he could to improve as a hitter during his Hall of Fame career with the Philadelphia Phillies.
So he’s the ideal person for the current Phillies to discuss their batting strategies with, especially since management has stressed to players they need to alter their approach at the plate.
Schmidt is in camp for his annual role as a special hitting instructor, and he’s planning to spend a little more time here this spring.
“This year might be a little more one-on-one with guys, just chatting more specifically about in-game hitting strategy,” Schmidt said. “There will be times when I chat with guys about mechanics, but for the most part, the additions I’m going to offer this year are in-game strategies like, ‘Let’s be more aggressive in fastball counts, let’s be tougher to strike out, let’s figure out a way to give up fewer at-bats.’”
Ever since the Phillies lost Game 5 of the NLDS 1-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals, the focus has been on the offense. With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels anchoring the rotation and Jonathan Papelbon closing games, the Phillies clearly have enough pitching to win their sixth straight NL East title.
But the only goal is to win another World Series championship.
And, the hitters have to do their part.
A once-potent offense that features two former MVPs — Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins — and several All-Stars hasn’t produced the way it used to when the Phillies started this playoff run.
A few days after the disappointing loss to the Cardinals last fall, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said hitters have to change their hitting styles, be more selective, work the count better and not rely on home runs to score. Manager Charlie Manuel agrees, even though he’s been trying to hammer this point home to players for years.
Maybe Schmidt can help.
“A guy like me is only good if there are ears that want to listen,” he said. “I never said I’m the end-all when it comes to that, but I’m a sounding board for guys, and I enjoy it.”
Skeptics wonder if players who’ve had success doing it one way for several years can suddenly change at a later stage in their career. Rollins, Howard and Shane Victorino are three of the players who would benefit most from a new approach. But each seems set in his ways.
“Can you change a guy’s approach? Yeah, you can get a guy to think about his role and profession,” Schmidt said. “You can get him to think about being great at it and get him to understand it takes applying your mind more to your craft. You can get a guy to change the way he goes about his pregame work.
“I changed, and I was very stubborn throughout my career. I was in my 14th year and made major changes to my approach, both mentally and physically. I became maybe the best hitter in my career in my last couple of years. That’s another thing. Guys need to want to improve. Guys need to not be satisfied with where they are.”
Notes: RHP Austin Hyatt will start for the Phillies against Florida State in their annual exhibition game on Wednesday. Hyatt was 12-6 with a 3.85 ERA in 28 starts at Double-A Reading last season. … 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley, 3B Placido Polanco and C Carlos Ruiz will not play against the Seminoles.
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