Monday, February 18, 2013

Rasmus Looking For Big Season

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The days of Colby Rasmus constantly changing his mechanics at the plate have hopefully come to an end.

That's the goal for Toronto's center fielder and the coaching staff as they aim to find a consistent approach that can be maintained throughout a 162-game schedule.

Rasmus has been known in the past for making rather frequent adjustments when things aren't going well, but this year, the club is looking to uphold a different philosophy.

"The talent in him is unbelievable," hitting coach Chad Mottola said. "The things he does, the way he gets to the front of the box, and we're just going to get his quick hands to work in his favor rather than going through swing changes all year.

"We modified [his approach] a little bit, but it's one of those things where as time goes on, we hope we're not going to see five different stances after an 0-for-4. We're trying to get a consistent base and then we're going to stay there."

The biggest adjustment Rasmus made last season occurred in May following a period of prolonged struggles. He opted to move up in the box and closer to the plate and for awhile, the adjustment worked wonders.

From May 21-July 8, he was easily one of the best outfielders in the league. During that stretch of 44 games, he hit .299 with 14 homers and 38 RBIs while posting an impressive .970 OPS.

The problems returned after that, though, as Rasmus possibly began overthinking things in the box and had trouble handling the high inside fastball. This year, he is maintaining the same location at the plate, but has slightly dropped his hands in the stance.

The change came after Rasmus watched countless hours of video during the offseason. It's a return to something he did in the past when things were going well, and the lower-hand slot has the potential for a rather dramatic difference in the box.

"I'm trying to get good separation because in the past -- sometimes when I've gotten in trouble -- I'd work on staying on top of the ball and getting my hands higher and [instead] it gets more under the ball," Rasmus said.

"You wouldn't think that, but it's happened to me. I'm trying to keep my hands lower in a good slot, and try to keep a good separation with my foot going forward and my hands going back. I think that will help with timing issues."

In addition to the changes at the plate, the other thing which plagued Rasmus in 2012 was that he physically wore down during the second half. It had nothing to do with being out of shape, but did relate to overdoing things at times.

Rasmus' work ethic often doesn't receive a lot of publicity, but last season he could constantly be found in the cage doing extra work with former hitting coach Dwayne Murphy. Rasmus seems like an incredibly laid-back player, but what's not noticed is that he has a tendency to be somewhat of a perfectionist.

Extra repetitions can be a good thing, but when taken too far, they can also become a detriment. That's something general manager Alex Anthopoulos noticed midway through the 2012 season, but at the time wasn't aware just how much of a negative impact it could have.

"I remember a game against the Marlins he hit a home run, had a great game, was on a hot streak," Anthopoulos said of a game on June 23. "It was a day game and guys were going to go out on a Saturday night in Miami to enjoy themselves, but he goes to the cage. I was like, 'Wow.' It was non-stop.

"You almost got the sense that he was playing well and he had to work even harder to maintain that pace. I give him credit because his mindset is to work extremely hard, but I think as a young player it's learning when to back off and give himself time ... He did wear down and get tired."

Rasmus' mentality this year is "quality over quantity" when it comes to his work on the side. An added benefit will be playing for a team that has more depth than at any point in recent memory.

With an injury-depleted roster in 2012, Rasmus had no choice but to play through a nagging groin injury which lingered during the final two months. This year, the Blue Jays have more than capable backup outfielders in Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio, so appropriate rest shouldn't be an issue.

Rasmus no longer has the No. 2 spot in the order and instead likely will find himself in the lower half, but with any luck, the consistent approach will be take his performance to the next level.

"Last year when we had our pitchers go down, it put a lot of stress on the position players," said Rasmus, who has one year of arbitration remaining after this season.

"We were playing a lot of games in a row there, so I think pitching carrying us late in games and our bullpen being able to keep us off the field and keep us in the batter's box taking some hacks, will keep us more fresh to do damage at the plate."



Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the upcoming Blue Jays season. With the players they signed and acquired, how can you not get excited. It's been awhile since they been in the playoffs and hopefully this is the season they make it back.

Anonymous said...

If his bat gets hot, LOOK OUT!!