5/25/2014 2:00 P.M. ET
Power hitters willing to deal with shifts
By Jamie Ross / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Blue Jays hitters are showing a willingness to sacrifice power for placement, and it's paying off with runs, according to hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.
With defensive overshifts becoming increasingly common, power pull hitters such as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion often find opposing second basemen shading them up the middle, or face a left side of an infield that's manned by three defenders instead of two.
So to avoid hitting into the shift, they're hitting around it. Seitzer said if a soft single or a chopper the other way leads to a run, it doesn't matter.
"I tip my hat to [Encarnacion] the other day in Boston. He's having a multi-homer game, and he's a guy who's completely locked in," Seitzer said. "And yet he recognizes a situation where the shift is on and he has a chance to knock in the run. And he shoots it through the right side."
Encarnacion and Bautista have both shown the willingness to go the other way instead of pulling the ball, which has impressed Seitzer.
Seitzer said the entire team has the ability to do hit the ball up the middle and take it the other way, and it's been a focus during batting practice.
"It's something I've always felt important to establish," Seitzer said. "We work on that every day. First round in batting practice, it's two bunts and seven [opposite-field hits]. Gets the hands working and lets the ball travel, and it gives them the confidence of seeing the ball go the other way on a line. As you continue to work on it every day, you start to build confidence that you can do it in a game."
Reyes, Gose add speed dimension to attack
TORONTO -- For all that's been made of their heavy hitters, it was the Blue Jays' speed on the basepaths that provided the offensive spark in their 5-2 win over the A's on Saturday afternoon.
Jose Reyes and Anthony Gose scored four of the team's five runs, showing that it's not only the big bats that can get the job done for the American League East's best team.
"It makes a big difference," manager John Gibbons said of his fleet-footed No. 1 and No. 9 hitters. "It's the old saying that speed never goes on slumps. It makes things happen. Reyes has been around a long time, and he's always done that. Gose is on his way up, trying to make a name for himself. That's what he does."
The proof was in the pudding on Saturday, as both men showed swiftness and smarts on the bases. Gose demonstrated his wheels when he scored from first on a shallow Melky Cabrera single to left field after Craig Gentry misplayed it. Reyes, meanwhile, twice scored from second base on infield grounders.
"That's the game I play, stealing bases, sliding all over the place," said Reyes, who's seemingly in top form and running the bases like the Reyes of old.
Reyes had seven stolen bases entering Sunday, all of which have come in the month of May, and he added one in the first inning of the series finale. The shortstop missed the first three weeks of 2014 after sustaining a hamstring injury on Opening Day, and it took him a while to find his stride.
"When I'm pain free, I'm able to do that stuff," Reyes said.
Gose's speed is another known quantity. The 23-year-old was recalled by the Blue Jays on May 15 after center fielder Colby Rasmus went down with a hamstring injury, and he has since impressed with his ability to run down balls and make difficult plays in the outfield seem routine.
Gose has shown he's capable of laying down a bunt for a base hit, and his history of stealing bases in the Minor Leagues means it's likely only a matter of time before he starts swiping more bases at the big league level. He stole 21 bases through 120 career games with the Blue Jays.
"He's got a lot of speed there," Reyes said. "He's been unbelievable for us. Playing good defense. He can run every ball down. That's what we need."
With minor adjustments, Seitzer boosts hot offense
TORONTO -- Kevin Seitzer has been a Major League hitting coach for three organizations over five seasons since 2006, and the '14 Toronto Blue Jays might be the most talented group he's worked with yet.
"This is one of, if not the top group I've ever had, with pure talent and proven hitters that have been around for a long time," said Seitzer, who joined the Blue Jays in the offseason after spending 2009-12 with the Royals. "Jose [Bautista], Eddy [Encarnacion], and Jose Reyes as well. They've got a proven record getting it done, year in year out."
Offense has been a notable strength this season, although Seitzer doesn't take credit for any of his hitters' successes at the plate. He said he only helps with minor tweaks and adjustments when needed, and for the most part, he lets the guy at the plate do his thing.
Whatever Seitzer and Blue Jays are doing lately, it's working. Toronto's bats are red hot in the month of May. They lead all Major League teams with 37 home runs this month, and they top the American League in runs (137), home runs (40), slugging percentage (.479), extra-base hits (106) and OPS (.809) since April 27. They also boast the only positive run differential in the AL East (plus-21).
The team has gotten contributions from up and down the lineup most of the season, but players such as Juan Francisco and Encarnacion have really caught on in May to push the club's offense to new heights. Francisco homered eight times this month entering Sunday, while Encarnacion has smacked 13 after going yard only twice in April.
Though players such as Adam Lind and Melky Cabrera round out as solid of a batting order as they come in the AL, the team can still reach greater heights, Seitzer said.
Seitzer points to Brett Lawrie as a young player whose offense is still a work in progress.
"He's full of talent," said Seitzer. "He's still young, 23 years old, learning the pitching and making adjustments throughout the big league season and he's coming along great. So even though his numbers aren't where he wants them or where we want them, the quality of at-bats he's been having, I take my hat off to him. Especially after how slow he started, he's just been phenomenal."
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.