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Jan 082010

Last offseason, we read a number of stories about Kevin Long traveling to the Dominican to help Robinson Cano retool his swing after an atrocious 2008. Cano closed his stance a bit and stayed back on pitches on the outer half, and he had a spectacular 2009. This offseason, Long has work with some other hitters on the agenda, according to Bryan Hoch:

While the rest of baseball clings to its last weeks of Hot Stove hibernation, Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has already rolled into the new season, logging frequent-flyer miles to put in batting cage hours with several players.

Long is spending this week overseeing Alex Rodriguez’s first swings of 2010 and has already spent a good chunk of the winter helping Nick Swisher. A visit with Curtis Granderson is also ahead, as Long sacrifices his down time in the hopes that New York’s offense will be a dominant force as they defend the World Series title….

“Swish is a fastball hitter, and in the playoffs, he got a steady diet of offspeed stuff,” Long said. “They were able to throw them for strikes, and Swish’s swing has a lot of movement to it. The new mechanics are going to control some of those movements and put him in a better position.

“We’ve got his hands closer to his body, and we’ve got to get him consistent with his lower half. If we do all of those things, you might see a guy who’s able to react better to an offspeed pitch.”

Next week, Long plans to meet with Granderson, who figures to be one of the hitting coach’s main projects during the spring. An All-Star with the Tigers, Granderson hit .249 with 30 homers and 71 RBIs last year, but he batted just .183 in 180 at-bats against left-handed pitching. Long is interested in breaking down Granderson’s swing to get a better feel for it.

Kevin Long is an excellent hitting coach, as he is clearly dedicated to his craft and seems to connect with all players, from the stars to the scrubs. He also does not seem the type to accept good performance from those that can be great. Swisher and Granderson are both good players, but both have flaws in their approach that are preventing them from maximizing their potential. Swisher is extremely twitchy at the plate, and his swing tends to include plenty of movement from his lower half, as Long alludes to. While they are unlikely to eliminate Swisher’s toe-tap entirely, it seems that they will try and limit the tap and stride that makes it difficult for him to adjust to a breaking ball if he was expecting a fastball.

As for Granderson, some Tigers blogs have suggested that he got extremely pull happy over the last season or two, which may contribute to his struggles against lefties. He may have to be content with being a slap hitter against left-handed pitching, staying back in the zone and going the other way with everything middle-away. It will be interesting to track his progress against lefties, as the only thing preventing him from being a superstar is his extremely poor performance against them. Hopefully Kevin Long can help him turn things around and maximize his copious talents.

11 Responses to “Kevin Long Earning His Paycheck”

  1. I must say, I was dead wrong about Kevin Long (this rhyme was not intentional). He is more then dedicated, and has the ability to work with players from the superstar level all the way down to the rookies. I think he is part of the reason Cashman is confident in Gardner, and probably feels he can turn into a Yankee version of Ellsbury. I strongly believe both Granderson and Swisher will improve this season working under the tutelage of Long. He also gives you faith that if Jeter, Posada, Texiera, etc… has a slump, he will be able to break them out of it.

    People often say (myself included at times), “What can a pitching/hitting coach do with these Hall of Fame level players?” I think Kevin Long has demonstrated that he can in fact be a major impact on these hitters. It’s always great to see your favorite team develop a budding star, whether it be Robinson Cano on the field, or a Kevin Long off it.  (Quote)

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  2. Jay, you just read my mind. I was about to post the exact same thing.

    The Devils made a big decision when they decided to start replacing star coaches like Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly with veterans of the minor league system. They have more guys in the pipeline too – Dave Miley would make a great manager, and Scott Aldred is one of the best pitching coaches that the Yankees have ever had.

    I think its important to remember how important coaching is to a younger team. The old teams could get by with big name but less successful coaching because they didn’t need it. Derek Jeter doesn’t need Kevin Long or Don Mattingly to show him how to hit. Adjustments are little things for them. For but young guys coming up from the minors, coaching is so much more important. They’re still learning how to play, developing their swing, etc.

    I remember hearing Cano rave about how much Kevin Long helped him at Double-A. Melky had great things to say too. I bet Kevin Long can have a big impact on Jesus Montero.  (Quote)

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    MJ Reply:

    EJ Fagan: The Devils

    Hockey on the brain? :-)   (Quote)

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    EJ Fagan Reply:

    Yes.  (Quote)

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  3. “He also does not seem the type to except good performance from those that can be great”

    Think you meant “Accept” not “Except.

    Accept and except are sometimes confused as verbs because of their similar pronunciations, esp. in rapid speech. Accept means “to take or receive” (I accept this trophy), while except means “to exclude” (Certain types of damage are excepted from coverage in this insurance policy).  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Yes, thanks for the correction, although I would prefer an email notification instead of a comment in the future.  (Quote)

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    Jay Reply:

    I’m pretty sure that the entire breakdown of “Accept and Except” was unnecessary, and the point could have simply been made by saying, “Think you meant ‘Accept’ not ‘Except.’”

    And for someone named “Grammar,” you should close your quotations after the word “Except” when you are quoting from someone else. When you are called “Grammar,” it’s important to make sure you never make any grammatical mistakes.

    By any chance when you were looking up definitions, did you come across the definition of “Douchbag?” You might want to look that one up.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Thanks, Jay. I’ve seen Mr. Grammar show up at other Yankees blogs before, so I was expecting “douchbaggery” when I saw his comment.  (Quote)

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    EJ Fagan Reply:

    Tisk tisk Moshe. Harvard Law be shamed.  (Quote)

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  4. Anyone following the Yankees closely, has heard the good things being passed around about Long and Scott Aldred. Mostly by those they have helped the most. Good coaches are hard to come by, good thing Cash and Co., are smart enough to keep them.
    Long spending time with A-Rod shows just how much a good coach is trusted by even the stars of the game.  (Quote)

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  5. what ever he gets ,under paid… looks like he communicates extremely well with both vets and rooks.. Eiland and long are business, i could see them as officers in the military.. good we have them both/  (Quote)

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