In an excellent interview with Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs, Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez spoke about his completely revamped swing and revamped approach at the plate that he’s employed since signing with Detroit prior to the 2014 season (note: the interview contains its fair share of profanity). As Sawchik writes, Martinez is one of several hitters that has adopted an extreme fly-ball approach at the plate (Josh Donaldson and Justin Turner are other examples), aiming to elevate the ball above all else. “I always thought the perfect swing was a line drive [back to] the pitcher,” said Martinez, referencing a more conventional train of thought that is often instilled in young hitters. “I’d go out there and hit the ball perfectly, and it’s [a] single. Why is my perfect swing a single?” Martinez said he examined the swings of Mike Trout, Ryan Braun and Albert Pujols, wondering why his swing looked so different from those sluggers even though he was following his coaches’ instructions. Martinez said many of his teammates have asked him about the fly-ball oriented approach and added that he believes a tipping point is nearing, at which point conventional hitting wisdom will modernize.
A few more notes from the AL Central…
- As Twins righty Phil Hughes continues to build himself back from thoracic outlet surgery, he’s working on several changes to his approach, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. Hughes, who is still not quite working at his typical velocity levels, focused on inside fastballs and his change-up in an appearance yesterday against a minor-league side. Increasing the usage of those offerings is part of the organization’s plan for Hughes to “bring some different stuff to the table” this year, per pitching coach Neil Allen. “It’s hard for a veteran guy who’s been doing things one way for as many years as he has to change,” says Allen. “But we’ve got to make him change.” The hope is that the varied looks will allow Hughes to re-establish some swing and miss in 2017. After reaching a swinging-strike rate of 8.9% in 2014, just under his career peak, he has fallen off in the past two seasons — with the bottom-line results also trending in the wrong direction.
- Indians right-hander Cody Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery back in November, has been shut down, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter link). While there are not yet further details on Anderson’s situation, that’s obviously a disheartening development for both player and team. Anderson wasn’t likely to crack the Cleveland rotation, barring injury, but a notable absence would eliminate an experienced depth piece and potential bullpen option. The 26-year-old righty had his share of struggles in 2016, but overall he sports a 4.50 ERA and a 98-to-37 K/BB ratio in 152 Major League innings.
- Alex Gordon will appear in center field for the Royals this weekend, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com tweets. While that’s not likely to be any sort of regular alignment, due to the presence of both Lorenzo Cain and, to a lesser extent, Paulo Orlando, the additional versatility that Gordon appears to be working on is worth noting. If he’s able to show well there, despite his age, Gordon could theoretically see more regular time at the position in 2018 and beyond. Cain is, after all, slated to become a free agent next winter.