PITTSBURGH, Pa. — After Clint Barmes popped out in his last at-bat on Monday, en route to an 0-for-4 day at the plate, he heard loud boo’s from the crowd at PNC Park. Fans are disappointed in his season so far, but no one is more disappointed than Barmes himself.
Barmes since has taken a step back from the game in order to work on his swing. After the club promoted infielder Jordy Mercer to the Majors on Tuesday, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said he was going to get Barmes to work on some specific things for several days.
“It’s similar to the program that we put into place with Rod [Barajas],” Hurdle said. “Helping him reconnect his swing and understand what he needs to do to square a ball up. We predicate everything off of hitting a line drive to center field. Really try and kick a lot of information to the curb. A lot of noise to the curb. Keep it simple. We’re going to hit the ball hard to where it’s pitched. We’re going to really be more cautious of what our hands are doing and what we’re doing with the barrel more than anything else and getting comfortable when getting in.”
“We started the same process that we started with Rod almost three weeks ago. Basically the same routine. I just left him in there and we’ll see where it goes. I think he’s understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish and how we’re going to get there.”
And Barajas has seen good results since he too, took a step away from the game to work on his swing. Barajas has hit .344 with two home runs and six RBI over his last 10 games, and overall in May is hitting for a .302/.357/.556 clip. The veteran catcher started the season hitting .143 over 49 at-bats in April.
“Pretty much just trying to find a swing that’s relaxed and consistent,” Barmes said. “That’s going to give the best chance to go up there everyday and put good swings on the ball. That’s been a battle for me since the beginning of the season. Just too much body involved in my swing and pulling off balls. Just not having the quality at-bats that I need to be having right now.”
Barmes signed a two-year deal with Pittsburgh over the offseason to replace Ronny Cedeno as the club’s starting shortstop. And Barmes has a proven track record, too. The 33-year-old has a solid glove and provides some pop — he connected for 12 long balls with Houston last season and belted a career-high 23 in 2009 in Colorado.
While playing parts of eight seasons with the Rockies, Barmes spent all those big league seasons with Hurdle as his skipper. Hurdle spent over 15 seasons with the Rockies organization and knows Barmes well, which could benefit the infielder and help break him out of his season long slump.
“I know him,” Hurdle said. “I know the things he fights when he doesn’t do well. We always deal with the honesty of the situation and what we’re dealing with. I try and accentuate to him what his strengths are and the areas that he needs to try and stay away from that causes him some challenges from time to time.”
“I think after going through it as much as I did in Colorado and playing as long as I did for him, I think that’s definitely an advantage for the way that I’ve started so far,” Barmes said. “Coming into a new situation and playing under a manager that may not know me as well, it’s hard to say what would be going on right now. So, yeah, I definitely think it’s a good thing.”
Perhaps stepping away from the game could help. The infielder has seen flashes of a good games at the plate, but hasn’t seen enough consistency over the season. Over 46 games, Barmes has hit .170/.196/.270 and is 0-for his last 9 at-bats. In his previous 14 at-bats prior, Barmes had seven hits (.500 avg).
“It definitely gets to a point where, you’re showing up everyday, you’re preparing yourself more and more,” Barmes said. “It’s definitely nice to sometimes take a step back and slow it down and just watch other hitters hit. Just watch their tempo and rhythm. Just step back and slow it down again. I’ve done that in the past and its helped.”
“I think that’s why skip called me in and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing now. It’s not the way I want it. Nobody wants to have to go through this, or have to step back and take that time. I think it’s a positive thing for where I’m at and obviously it’s what I need right now. I’m getting a lot of good out of it. I’d rather be out there playing. And he knows that. Just a little something to slow myself down and gather myself back up again. You never have to want to go through this stuff, but that’s baseball.”