Orioles' Wieters alters batting stance

Catcher doubles, homers Wednesday after he and hitting coach Presley change approach

April 14, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK — With his early-season slump deepening and outside criticism of his offense growing by the day, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters turned to the videotape to try to get some positive reinforcement.

What he and first-year Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley found instead was a reminder of a time when Wieters felt a lot more comfortable at the plate than he has recently.

"I went back and watched some tapes from '09 and some earlier times in my career, and I think I got a little bit spread out," Wieters said. "I'm just trying to get back to where I used to be. If you go through a long-enough stretch and you have some success, you don't really go and look back at the tape and see what you are doing different. With the struggles that I've had going on lately, I went back and looked at the tape, and I was probably a little bit more standup and my feet were a little closer together. That's what we've been trying to work on the last few days. It feels good."

With a more upright stance and his feet closer together, Wieters went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and a walk in the Orioles' 7-4 loss in the series opener against the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

"I said to him, 'If that doesn't make you believe in that, I don't know what would,'" Presley said.

Wieters' fifth-inning double was a line shot to right field on a 92 mph fastball from A.J. Burnett. His two-run homer in the seventh off Burnett, which sailed deep into the right-field seats, was on a 2-0, 93 mph fastball.

That's significant because Wieters, for much of his young big league career, has had trouble handling good fastballs, and Burnett certainly has one. Orioles manager Buck Showalter remarked after the game that Wieters looks "real hitter-ish up there right now," and attributed it to work the catcher has put in recently with Presley and changes he has made to his stance.

Wieters and Presley spent a lot of time the past couple of days in the indoor batting cage at Yankee Stadium. The focus has been on trying to get Wieters more comfortable at the plate and in a better position to drive the ball.

"Just trying to get back to that good feel at the plate," said Wieters, is hitting .212 with a homer and four RBIs after going 0-for-4 with a strikeout Thursday night. "Maybe instead of trying to be so mechanical up there, [I'm] just trying to get that feel of where it used to be. Some of the work we put in the last two days in the cage I think has really helped. I think I was getting spread out where I really wasn't getting enough of a load.

"It's sort of going back to when it was more natural for me. I was doing things that weren't comfortable probably all the way through spring training. It wasn't like I had to go back and change everything, but to be able to get back to the way I felt in '09 and '08, it feels good to go back to that way."

Presley said that when he saw the video of Wieters' stance from 2009, he immediately told the catcher it was something he needed to get back to doing.

"He said that's the way he used to hit in college and through the minor leagues," Presley said. "It just allows him to get the barrel to the ball and use his lower half. He was going back and getting out front, and he had nothing left. This allows him to stay behind the ball and use his lower half better, get more leverage in his swing, and use that 6-5, 230-pound body or whatever he's got."

Bergesen gets boost

Showalter announced Thursday that Brad Bergesen will start Sunday's series finale in Cleveland. It will be Bergesen's first start since April 6, though he threw two perfect innings in relief Wednesday, striking out two and getting three groundouts and a flyout.

"It doesn't hurt. Anytime you can go out there, whether it's here or anywhere, and go six up, six down, it's a great feeling," Bergesen said. "It's a good workday for me yesterday, just to get the feeling back. I hadn't been on the mound in a while or even in a game situation, so that point was a positive."

Showalter met with Bergesen on Thursday and reminded the 25-year-old that the organization is still excited about his future.

"He's done some good things here, and I have a long memory," Showalter said. "I think he's in a good place. We know what he's capable of."

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