Can the Red Sox uncover Ryan Sweeney’s power potential?
|03.03.12 at 7:41 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The day started with Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine an interesting analysis of what exactly Ryan Sweeney delivers with the bat.
“Looking at where he’s been, he should be on the verge,” the manager said.
“Watching him, I don’t think he knows himself as well as he should, especially as a hitter. It seems like in the outfield he has a very good sense of who he is. I’m not sure he has a great sense of who he is at the plate, yet.”
When asked why it was the case Sweeney hasn’t hit with more power, Valentine surmised that it could be a correctable problem.
“Bad mechanics. Doesn’t know himself as a hitter,” he said. “He’s hit some balls really far. He was the one early on who was hitting balls into the bullpen when we were warming up. Branch Rickey said, ‘If you see a guy hit a ball 500 feet that means he has major league power, it’s up to the coaches to get him to perform at a major league level.’”
Well, judging by the outfielder’s performance in the Red Sox’ 25-0 win over Northeastern Saturday, evidently there’s been some good coaching going on when it comes to Sweeney.
The 6-foot-4, lefty hitter launched a three-run homer over the right field wall in the sixth inning for his third hit of the game. This from an outfielder known for his glove and line-drives, rather than any sort of power. (He has never hit more than six home runs in a season while carrying a career slugging percentage of .378 over six big league seasons.
It was along the lines of what Valentine was referencing when talking about that first impression Sweeney had offered thus far in camp.
“I’ve always been able to hit BP like that for some reason,” Sweeney said. “It’s just transferring it over to the game which has been the issue. Whatever that is hopeful I figure that out some day.”
With what appears to at least be an opportunity to play against most right-handers, Sweeney is banking on this day being that some day.
“I’ve sat down with the hitting coach [Dave Magadan] and talked about my swing and I’m just trying to get back to some stuff I was doing in ’08 and ’09 as far as rhythm at the plate,” Sweeney said. “I didn’t really have a lot of rhythm last year at the plate because I wasn’t in there every day. I’ve been working on a few things with my hands, just trying to get in a good rhythm and maybe a little bit of lift on the ball.”
It is that “lift” that everybody yearns to see from Sweeney.
The big body. The athleticism. The bombs in batting practice. It would seem to all add up to at least 20-home run potential. Yet the closest he has come to fulfilling that potential came with Triple-A Charlotte in ’06 when he hit 13 home runs in 118 games.
Now, according to Valentine, it is the Red Sox’ job to try and figure it out.
“I’m not going to try and hit homer every time up and dip and rip. I’m more of a line-drive type of guy,” Sweeney said. “Like today, it was a 3-1 count so if I can get in a good hitters count where I can take a bigger swing at it but not lose sight of what I need to do as far as my swing, I will.
“Sometimes playing in Oakland you go in and as a hitter sometimes you feel overmatched when a stadium is so big and you feel like you can’t hit a homer or you can’t go the other way and have it hit off the wall. You’re just trying to hit gaps and stuff like that. But if you’re playing in a park like this where you feel like you can drive the ball and hit balls off the wall, it gives you more confidence.”
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