Carlos Beltran keeping eyes on the field instead of going to the videotape, and it's working
With the ever-evolving influx of new baseball technology and advanced stats during the past decade, sometimes an open-minded player can get swallowed up in the limitless possibilities and needs a breather.
Just ask Carlos Beltran.
The first-year Yankee has always been one to embrace the potentially important role that video plays in a player's preparation. Over the years, he has spent endless hours in the video room watching his swings -- the good, the bad and everything in between.
But recently he has taken it to a new level, thanks to all the free time he has when he's the designated hitter.
Ever since he came back from the disabled list on June 5, the Yankees have used him only as a DH because of the bone spur in his right elbow, and because he still feels forearm tightness when he throws, it looks as if that will be his role for the foreseeable future.
It's a new role for the 17-year veteran, one he said he knew would take some getting used to. Coming into the year, he had appeared in more than 2,000 major-league games and was the designated hitter in only 45 of them. So he had to find a routine.
Beltran thought he could make the most of his added free time. Instead of spending half of the game in rightfield, he would spend more time in the video room, analyzing his swings from previous at-bats and how the pitchers were attacking him.
But after yet another hitless game on June 28 that dropped his average to .209, Beltran met with hitting coach Kevin Long and they decided to scrap that plan altogether. At that point, Beltran was 12-for-73 (.164) since coming off the disabled list, and Long could sense his frustration growing by the at-bat.
All that time spent in the video room going over missed opportunities wasn't helping Beltran. Heck, maybe it was even hurting.
So they powered down the video machine, put down the scouting reports and came up with a new game plan as a DH that centers on the most basic element of hitting.
"Just see the ball'' is the way Long describes Beltran's new approach, and it's been working. Through Friday, he was 7-for-23 with five RBIs in six games since changing his approach.
Instead of spending most of the game in the video room or in the indoor hitting cages, Beltran sits on the bench when the Yankees are hitting and watches the game firsthand pitch-by-pitch, acting as if it's 1955 or 1975 or even 1995 all over again.
"And he's become really active in between innings, walking around and talking about things instead of just sitting in the video room thinking about an at-bat,'' Long said.
Admittedly, this is not what Beltran envisioned when he began thinking of himself as a full-time designated hitter. For someone who used to be a positive presence on defense, it's awkward to sit on the bench and hit every few innings.
Offensive struggles have hurt the Yankees this season, and nowhere in the lineup has it been more apparent than at designated hitter. Through Thursday's games, the Yankees' DHs combined for a .658 OPS, which ranked 13th in the American League.
To say the proud veteran was frustrated is putting it mildly.
"We haven't been able to score runs,'' Beltran said. "It's one of those things I have no explanation for.''
But lost amid the Yankees' five straight losses this past week was that Beltran finished on a 6-for-16 run with a double and a home run. That came in the first four games after they thumbed their nose at technology, at least temporarily.
Then Beltran added a three-run home run in Thursday night's 7-4 win over the Twins and a sacrifice fly in Friday's 6-5 victory over Minnesota.
No wonder Long was upbeat regarding the early returns from Beltran's new approach to being the designated hitter.
"That's an adjustment that I think has moved in a positive way for us,'' Long said. "If he can continue to swing the way he has . . ."
Long didn't finish the thought. He didn't need to.