Wilson hopes new batting stance yields better results after slow spring
Jack Wilson gets back to second on a pickoff attempt after hitting a double, his first extra-base hit of the spring, Saturday against the Reds. Wilson, at the suggestion of hitting coach Dale Long, is altering his stance this spring.
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- What 0-for-23 slump? Oh, no, Jack Wilson was never worried about that.
Matter of fact, he was appeased by it, if not pleased.
"I'm happy it's happening here, if it has to happen," said Wilson, who ended his 10-game batting skid with a double Saturday against Cincinnati and then, leading off the lineup yesterday against the Reds, went 0 for 3 in Aaron Harang's six no-hit innings. "Doesn't matter. Just trying to get your work in, get your timing down. We're working on a lot of things, moving our hands to a slot different than what I've ever done before. You got to trust and get it down before you go up."
By up and down, he means a northward migration for the Pirates and his batting average, but primarily he is referring to growing accustomed to his lower-than-usual hands placement.
Pretty much since he curled up in the fetal batter's stance, Jack Eugene Wilson has been a wrists-above-the-right-ear kind of hitter.
At the age of 31 years, 83 days, he has made a change ... at the suggestion of hitting coach Don Long.
Wilson's grip at the bat's base is repositioned about right-shoulder high nowadays. Perhaps that alteration can quicken his swing and restore a consistency that showed in double-digit home runs with .296-plus averages in 2004 and '07. He batted a five-year low .272 last year.
"My hands have always been up my whole life. It's hard," Wilson said. "We studied videotape, and we came to the conclusion this might be the best route. We're hoping it will benefit with less movement of the hands, see the ball longer. They were too high to get in the right position. The timing was off.
"We're working pretty hard making some adjustments. I'm happy where they're at. I've always been making sure my defense is good to go for the season. So that's all I really care about."
In other words, fielding is his priority through spring training. Hitting results, he figures, will come around.
That's where Long enters into it.
"It's not that you can't do it the other way, it's more to manage [with hands high] -- you're timing has to be more exact," Long said of the swing. "Just trying to simplify it.
"He just wants to spot the ball well, be in good position, and feel the right things. ... It's not so much about the mechanics of your swing, it's about the challenge of getting [the bat] at the strongest and most balanced position on time. The more you do that, it impacts on how you see the ball, it impacts what you swing at, it impacts the counts you get in."
Wilson's spring started well enough, with a pair of singles in his first six at-bats.
A hit by pitch. Two walks. Five strikeouts, a double play, weeks worth of outs.
His first at-bat Saturday at Sarasota against Cincinnati's Homer Bailey, he got it to a full count, then grounded out. His second at-bat, he lashed the ball down the left-field line and into the corner, a double. It was his first extra-base hit of spring. Up went his batting average from .069 to .100. He later walked.
Yesterday at McKechnie Field against Harang, he battled from an 0-2 hole to get to a 3-2 full count, then hit a long flyout. He added a groundout and another flyout that left him on a 1-for-27 run at the plate.
"I hadn't been happy with my last year," he said. "If you're going to make a change, make it here."
While teammates continue to mention a change in the atmosphere, the longest-tenured current Pirates player said he similarly sensed a charge around the clubhouse.
"Guys are energetic. They're very happy to be here," Wilson offered. "They're excited about the season. We're having a good spring. Guys are playing well. When you get down to the last couple of weeks, it's getting prepared for the season. We're looking forward to St. Louis."
First Published March 23, 2009 12:00 am