A’s batting coach Chili Davis spent his usual Sunday morning in the batting cage working with eight or 10 of the club’s hitters, whoever wandered by over the course of 90 minutes.
One of those was, as is almost always the case, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Davis had Cespedes hit off a tee, then tee off on some underhand flips from Davis behind a screen.
After Cespedes, who has spent the spring trying to turn a long swing into a short one, was done and things were dying down, Davis turned to me and asked, “Why is everyone so concerned about Cespedes?’’
I said a .130 spring batting average will do that, and Davis just shook his head.
“I’m not worried about the batting average,’’ he said. “I’m not even worried about the swing. I’m just working on this.’’
And Davis tapped the side of his head.
“Hitting’s a mental game,’’ he said. “Right now, it’s all just pitch selection with him. “He’s short, he’s short so now he’s got to pick the pitches he wants to hit.’’
Manager Bob Melvin said Saturday that in going from the long swing that Cespedes brought with him from Cuba to the shorter swing the club is having him work on now may result in a hybrid. Davis said it will be shorter than long, but he, too, expects a hybrid swing once the season starts in a week.
And despite the terrible batting average, Davis said Sunday that there’s nothing wrong with Cespedes’ swing.
“It’s all just pitch selection with him,’’ Davis said. “That’s all I’m working on him with right now. You’re short, you’re short, now you’ve got to pick the pitches you want to hit.
“He’s going to from being as long as he was (in his swing) to being short now to being right in the middle. I don’t want him to focus any more on mechanics now. He has to focus now on the pitch. Where it is, the counts, the situation. Know what you want and swing at it.’’
Cespedes didn’t do that in his first at-bat in a minor league game Saturday. Davis said after that the left fielder got angry.
And Davis liked that.
“Does anger work for him? I think it does,’’ the batting coach said. “If he can get angry and stay short, that’s the perfect combination right there.
“That’s the only way I could play. If I walked into the park and I was laughing and smiling, that was bad. I had to be seriously pissed at something. I would get pissed at his teammates for being happy.’’
For now, however, Davis is happy to say he believes Cespedes is where he needs to be and “will be just fine.’’
As if to prove the batting coach right, Cespedes and an infield single and a solo homer in four plate trips Sunday in Peoria in a 6-4 loss to the Mariners. The homer was his first of the spring.
However, he was picked off first base once and double off first base once.
“We saw some good at-bats from him today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “The base running wasn’t great. But for a power hitter, it’s always nice to get that first home run.