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.