Scutaro's wider stance yields results
Shortstop's power skyrockets after adjustments at plate
TORONTO -- What Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston and hitting coach Gene Tenace noticed about Marco Scutaro at the plate was that his at-bats seemed to improve after the count on him reached two strikes.
"When we first got here [last June 20], Geno and I would watch him hitting, and when he got two strikes on him, he would spread out a little bit more," Gaston said. "He would probably have a better at-bat when he got the two strikes than before he did, before he had the two strikes."
"He had a narrow stance early in the count, and he was over-lunging," Tenace said. "As soon as he got two strikes, he would spread out, and he would have better success, better at-bats when he was spread out. So we suggested that he start out with a wider base, and then go from there."
Whatever the reason, Scutaro is off to a strong start as the Blue Jays' regular shortstop, batting .283 with four home runs and 10 runs batted in after 14 games. In 2008, his first year with Toronto, he hit seven home runs all season with a career-best 60 RBIs and a .267 average in a career-high 145 games. His best season for home runs was in 2005, when he hit nine for the Oakland Athletics.
"He's staying behind the ball a lot better," said Tenace, adding that Scutaro's increased power is a result of the wider stance. "Now, he's got his legs under him instead of lunging out and getting his body involved, which slows the swing down. I think it's definitely had something to do with it. He's in a stronger position."
Scutaro said he had tried spreading out more in his stance before but had trouble staying consistent with it.
"After spreading out, I just worked on staying consistent with my mechanics," he said. "Just try to get some rhythm, and try to be consistent. Before, when I used to spread out, I'd kind of lose my rhythm, I didn't have any rhythm with my mechanics. That was one of the reasons I was going back and forth. I feel like I'm getting more rhythm right now, and I see the ball better."
He laughed when he was asked if the wider stance has resulted in so many home runs and he said, "Probably, I guess. I don't know -- you tell me."
He said that the difference now, than when he tried spreading out before, has been "timing."
"With his base being so close, a lot of times he would get his body out front and not let his hands get out there," Gaston said. "Every once in a while, he'll do it, and we have to remind him of it. He's taken to it. Every once in a while, we do have to remind him about his base, because he starts getting close."
Consistency is the key, Scutaro said. "That's the toughest part of hitting, is trying to be consistent every day, because one day you feel great, and the next day you don't know what's going on," he said.
"He's a guy who wants to get better, so he listens and he tries," Gaston said.
Scutaro played for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, going 5-for-13 (.385) with no home runs, but a .467 on-base percentage.
"Maybe the World Baseball Classic helped him in getting off to a start where he had to turn it up a little bit," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "He had a great year for us last year, but I think he kind of flew under the radar a little bit with some people. He's a good baseball player.
"Sometimes, those guys get lost in the shuffle because they're not flashy. I think Scutaro is one of those players, you watch him play every day, you like him. He's a valuable player on a team."
Larry Millson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.