February 18, 2013

Rangers new hitting coach wants to see better at-bats

The new hitting coach is building relationships while reinforcing his philosophy.

The 27 players who will swing the bats for the Texas Rangers this spring have been in camp only three full days.

That’s not enough time for the new hitting coach to start dissecting swings and barking orders at players he needs to trust him over the course of a 162-game regular-season schedule.

It’s so soon into spring training, in fact, that Dave Magadan hasn’t had his first group meeting with the hitters to explain his philosophy and how he wants things done at the plate.

That comes Thursday ahead of the beginning of Cactus League play this weekend. For now, the hitters are shaking off the winter rust, and Magadan is trying to build relationships with a group that is in need of reinforcement instead of reinvention.

The team that led the majors in runs last season felt as though it could have scored more, and Madagan’s job is to help show them why they didn’t and how to make sure they get the most out of their at-bats.

“Obviously, they did a lot of things right,” Magadan said Monday. “Everybody knows where they fell short last year, and they’ve got to get better at it. It’s just a matter of me staying on them about it and me making sure they grind out at-bats and finding other ways to score runs.”

Madagan’s, who joined the Rangers after six season in Boston, won’t be preaching anything different than his two predecessors, Clint Hurdle and Scott Coolbaugh, and manager Ron Washington.

There is more than one way to score a run without hitting a ball over the outfield wall. Sometimes just a groundball to second base will score a run, and an inability to do that can cost a team dearly.

Take the Rangers’ performance in late September and early October, a span that ended with them blowing a five-game lead in the American League West with nine games to play.

The Rangers scored 133 runs over their final 31 games beginning Sept. 1, but that ranked only seventh in the AL.

“To a guy, I think they would all admit there was something missing in that last month,” Magadan said.

The goal is for the Rangers to have better at-bats. That can mean working a 10-pitch walk by fouling off tough pitches, or it can mean lining out to second base on the first pitch as long as a hitter swung at his pitch.

Most of all it means doing something positive, but Magadan won’t try to take away the hitters’ aggression.

“You never go up there with the intent to walk,” said Magadan, who wants the Rangers have more awareness at the plate. “Get back to grinding out the at-bats. Be ready to hit, but have a plan and know what your responsibility is in that at-bat. Know what your responsibility is on this time. Know what your role is on this team. And let’s not just play for the three-run homer.”

So far, the players like the approach Magadan is taking. He said that everyone is just trying to survive until finding a rhythm, and the fact that he understands what they are going through and what they will be going through as a former player could be his best tool.

He tries to remind himself to not forget how hard it is to hit a baseball.

“He’s a guy who’s been around the game for a long time,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “He’s got a tremendous amount of knowledge, and he knows how to treat players the way they want to be treated. It’s nice to have that around.”

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