Friday, March 5, 2010
Position outlook: Hitting coach
By Richard Durrett
We are in the final stretch of our positional outlooks as we turn our focus to Clint Hurdle.
After a disappointing 2009 season on offense, Hurdle joins the Rangers to try to help get things turned around. Longtime hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo decided to take a multi-year offer from the Cubs. So it's Hurdle's job now to aid the Rangers' hitters.
Hurdle seems re-energized, taking the job after spending much of 2009 out of baseball. He was fired as manager of the Colorado Rockies on May 29 of last season after the team got off to a struggling start. And the months away from the field only made Hurdle miss it more.
With big bats like Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton in his order, Clint Hurdle has the tools to restore the Rangers' offense.
His mission is to make the Rangers' offense more versatile. You know all the stats from last season -- the runs were the lowest the club has produced since moving into Rangers Ballpark in Arlington -- and the organization has talked about needing to do the little things to get better. There's a focus on moving runners over, getting productive outs and making every at-bat count.
Of course, much of what Hurdle preaches, Jaramillo did too. But sometimes a different voice can make an impact. We'll see if that's the case with Hurdle.
He came in during the offseason and worked with a handful of hitters at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and also called many of them on the phone to have general conversations about their philosophies. Hurdle is one of the hardest-working guys at spring training. He's at the park early to hit the cages with some of the players and he stays late if anyone wants extra work after the day is done.
Hurdle is also big on the mental side, texting players and coaches famous sayings he likes. Hurdle is careful to caution that all hitters are different and that he isn't out to change swings completely. But he does want to make sure that players understand the proper strategy for each situation.
Michael Young talked about hitting to the scoreboard. If you need to move a runner over, know where you have to hit the ball and find a way to get it done. If you can swing away, take advantage of it. But don't waste at-bats. That's the message Hurdle is delivering.
Judging by the box score of Thursday's game, some of that is going on. Players are understanding when they can let it rip and when to play a little small ball. The other weapon the Rangers will use to produce runs is speed. They were 3-for-3 in the stolen base department on Thursday. And they've got speed in all over the lineup, giving Ron Washington more options.
A revamped lineup that includes Vladimir Guerrero and, the Rangers hope, better seasons from Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler, should make them more dangerous. Hurdle wants to make sure they are supremely prepared.