Throughout the off-season, I’ll provide commentary and links related to the Toronto Blue Jays and MLB every weekend.
Newly-appointed Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is taking a hands-on approach with Ryan Goins. Not only did Seitzer meet with Goins for a mid-winter hitting tutorial, the 51-year-old former all-star hosted the 25-year-old second baseman in Kansas City for three days.
“I picked him up at the airport, I fed him, I kept him at my house, took him to work out and watched movies with him just to get to know him,” Seitzer said at the Blue Jays’ rookie development camp.
Seitzer worked with Goins, the Blue Jays’ likely starter at second base, on his stance and the positioning of his hands. The hitting coach believes Goins can become a respectable MLB hitter, much like one of his former pupils, Alcides Escobar of the Kansas City Royals. In Seitzer’s view, Goins is more than a defensive specialist.
“The adjustments that he made and the drills that I put him through last weekend when he hadn’t seen any live pitching very much impressed me,” Seitzer said.
Seitzer, who was hired this off-season to replace Chad Mottola, believes in hitting the ball to all fields. The former Royals hitting coach says hitters such as Goins can be more effective if they’re prepared to hit the opposite way.
“It allows you to foul pitches off in tough counts instead of being out,” Seitzer said. “You want to go up there and hunt your strikes. There’s not too many hitters in the big leagues that go ‘I can’t wait to get a pitch in on my hands and try and turn on it and see how far foul I can hit it.’ It’s just not a pitch you can do much with.”
Goins hit .252/.264/.345 with two home runs for the Blue Jays as a rookie in 2013. He spent most of the season at triple-A, where he posted a .257/.311/.369 batting line in 111 games. Though Seitzer values situational hitting, he knows Goins’ teammates are not exactly slap hitters.
“There’s two types of guys,” he said. “There are run producers and table setters and knowing who you are and what your role is and what the score is is going to dictate how aggressive or how disciplined and how patient you need to be at certain times.”
Seitzer views Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie as power bats, and welcomes what they bring to Toronto’s lineup.
“Power is huge. I love power,” he says. “There’s no hitting coach on the planet that says he doesn’t love home runs. But at the same time, home runs don’t come as a result of going up there looking to pull the ball. Pitchers are so good at changing speeds, pitching forwards and backwards. You’re going to be early, you’re going to be late and being a good hitter at this level is far more important than just hitting an occasional home run.”
That said, there are some situations where it’s advantageous for power hitters to work the count and be prepared to take a walk.
“If we’re down by three runs and Encarnacion’s up and it goes to a 3-1 count, we need to be taking that pitch right there,” Seitzer said. “He’s not going to hit a three-run homer with nobody on and we’ve got a chance to start a rally, get a baserunner that will put us in position to bring the tying run to the plate late in the game.”
If Seitzer’s lessons pay off, Encarnacion and Bautista won’t be the only ones contributing on offence. The Blue Jays see potential in Goins and they’re hoping that translates to results in the coming months.
SURGERY FOR PEREZ: The Blue Jays announced that Luis Perez underwent surgery over the holidays to clean up scar tissue related to his past Tommy John surgery. Dr. James Andrews operated on the left-hander, who is still expected to be ready for spring training.
BENCH UPDATE: For now, the Blue Jays say they are comfortable with their existing infield depth. Though they could have use for a versatile Mark DeRosa-like bench player, their flexibility is limited with Maicer Izturis under contract through 2015.
"You've got two more years left on his deal, so he's going to be a part of the club and could be a good utility guy," manager John Gibbons said. Jamey Carroll agreed to terms with the Washington Nationals Thursday after drawing interest from an assortment of teams including the Blue Jays. Ultimately it doesn’t appear as though the Blue Jays made a push for Carroll with Izturis already assured of one spot on the team’s bench and Munenori Kawasaki also available.
CABRERA LOOKS TO REBOUND: While Melky Cabrera struggled in Toronto last year, he thrived with Seitzer and the Royals in 2011, hitting .305/.339/.470 with 18 home runs and 44 doubles. The hitting coach believes Cabrera could do it again.
“That’s what he’s capable of because I saw him do it,” Seitzer said. “He showed up, he played hard every day, he was a tremendous worker. The discipline, the work ethic, he was professional. Straight professional every day he came to the park.
"I’m glad to be back with him this year. It’ll be fun.” Cabrera, who batted leg injuries last year before having a benign tumour removed from his spine, is feeling good, according to Gibbons.
"I've heard he's doing great," Gibbons said. "He looks like the old guy, but only time will tell."
NOTES: Expect Bautista and Encarnacion to bat back-to-back in the middle of Toronto's batting order... Brandon Morrow continues to feel good physically, according to Gibbons... Sean Nolin and Marcus Stroman are on Gibbons' radar as rotation candidates... Gibbons said the Blue Jays have continued to keep in touch with Masahiro Tanaka. Asked about the team's discussions with Tanaka, Gibbons said "He's going to make a lot of money, I know that. More than you and I will." Touché.