Brett Gardner in a groove at the plate
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Brett Gardner said his approach at the plate this season hasn't changed drastically.
But it is a change nonetheless, one that has the outfielder on a torrid stretch.
"Just be ready to hit," said Gardner, the AL's reigning Player of the Week for the period ending June 9 (he went 13-for-25 with five doubles, a homer and six RBIs). "If I'm feeling good, if I'm swinging the bat well, there's no need to wait around for a 0-2 changeup when you get a fastball early in the count over the middle of the plate."
Hitting coach Kevin Long put it another way: coming to the plate with the intent to "do damage," something Gardner, who had hit safely in 15 of his last 17 games entering Tuesday night, has done. He's accumulated 24 extra-base hits, including six homers. Gardner's season-best in homers is seven, accomplished in 2011.
"He's been much more aggressive," Long said before Tuesday night's game. "He's been real good about attacking the strike zone and actually doing damage earlier in the count. What you're seeing is a guy who's been in swing-mode right from the time he steps in the box."
Long said it has been an adjustment because Gardner, 29, had "done it the other way so long," meaning seeing a lot of pitches, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing. However, Long said if a pitcher was locked in, the outfielder constantly hit from behind.
"He used to hit with two strikes a lot," Long said. "He was notorious for taking until he got to two strikes."
Long said that was OK, but only to a point.
"He's got a good eye and part of what he did well was get on base, but he was also giving the pitcher, it seemed, like two strikes every at-bat," he said.
Gardner, hitting .284 with a .349 OBP, characterized the approach as "taking my 'A' swing."
"It's always been a work in progress," he said. "I'm still trying to make improvements with it. Maybe a little bit of that's paying off."
Like any player in a hot streak, Gardner wasn't much for overanalyzing.
"It's like my spring training started," Gardner said. "I was swinging the bat well for a couple of weeks. It's baseball. When you're going good, don't forget about when you're struggling. And when you're struggling, try to get back to how you were doing when you're doing good."
Joe Girardi called Gardner "locked in," and joked, though there was some seriousness to it, about Monday's off day possibly disrupting his rhythm.
"What you don't want is that off day to get in the way of that," Girardi said.
Gardner who, counting Tuesday night, has appeared in all 64 games, smiled about the notion.
"I'm not ever going to complain about an off day," he said. "We don't get many, so it's a much needed off day. For me, for everybody."
Gardner was limited to 16 games last season because of a right elbow strain that required surgery and he's happy with how it's responded.
"My elbow has felt great the whole year," Gardner said. "I was a little concerned about that coming in, just because at the end of the season last year I didn't get any at-bats . . . but it's felt great. I've been healthy so I can't complain."