PITTSBURGH, Pa. — After starting the season off hot — hitting for a .303/.321/.395 line in 76 at-bats over his first 19 games of the season, Alex Presley has since fizzled off. The left fielder spent the majority of the season batting leadoff, but was bumped to the two spot in place of Jose Tabata, who took off at the plate.
“We’ve revisited a lot of the at-bats that we had last year when he first joined the club, the impact that he was able to make at the top of the lineup,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “We have drawn attention to a couple of different things in his swing that I think he can ramp up.”
“It starts with focus. I think he’s not as focused. It’s not that he hasn’t had any, sometimes you get misguided and fall into the trap of trying to do something he’s not normally done. His job at the top of the lineup is to get on base. And that’s what I tell him. It’s not that he needs to walk more or strikeout less, you need to hit balls that are in the strike zone.”
Presley said on Thursday prior to the game that he has been watching video from his swing from the 2011 season when he came up with the Pirates. Over 52 games in Pittsburgh, Presley hit for a .298/.339/.465 line in 215 at-bats.
“It’s not that much different,” Presley said of the difference between his swing now, compared to last season. “I get pitched tougher, too. People know me better now. There’s always something to learn. Last year, you look at when you’re going good. You’re going to hit a little skid. Everybody does at some point, its just how you get out of it. Just a couple tweaks here and there. Nothing major. I’m feeling pretty good.”
Over Presley’s last eight games entering Thursday, he has gone just 3-for-28 (.107). Two of those hits came in his last two games. On Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds, Presley hit a home run — his second of the season and the first to leave the yard. His first was an inside the parker. Presley, who was out of the lineup for the second straight game on Wednesday, singled in a pinch-hit at-bat on Tuesday and scored on Rod Barajas’ walkoff homer in the ninth.
“We’re getting balls to hit, we’re just not squaring them up. That’s going to be problematic,” Hurdle said. “Guys will swing at ball five, then he gets punched out. You take the walk, you move on. Good things start to happen for your club. It’s staying in control of things you can control.”
“Alex is working hard to just control the strike zone, square up balls that are in the strike zone. We’ve also got him trying to make sure he’s maintaining that at-bat through the zone with both hands on it. He had a little tendency every once in a while [to] release a little quick I think with his bottom hand which is causing him to lose the barrel and mis-hit balls.”
The left fielder has been coming to the field early getting in extra work on his swing.
“You can’t think too much,” Presley said. “Especially when you’re on the field. You got to just take your work, and trust what you did early is going to work in the game. And just play in the game and don’t really worry about it.”
Presley admitted that trusting that work in the game can be hard.
“Especially if you’re trying something new because you’ve done something for so long, it just comes naturally,” Presley said. “Even small things you change, you just have to trust that you did enough repetitions the right way prior to the game to not think about it. It’s hard to think about something when somebody is throwing a 95 mph fastball. You don’t have much time. You just have to react. But it’s coming along good.”
Leroux Throws From 120 Feet
Reliever Chris Leroux continues to progress through a right pectoral muscle strain, which sent him to the 60-day disabled list on April 4. Leroux started throwing on flat ground from 120 feet a few days ago.
“Everything is actually really good,” Leroux said. “I feel even stronger than I did before I got hurt. Hopefully it stays that way and I can come back and help the team whenever they need me.”
As of now, Leroux said he is just working through tossing on flat ground before taking his next steps. Leroux suffered the injury during an exhibition game in Philadelphia before the regular season started.
“I threw 120 feet today twice. It’s kind of a strenuous throwing program, but it feels good,” Leroux said. “It will help me regain my strength and be back to where I was kind of at the end of spring training.”
Yamaico Navarro since breaking camp with the club has appeared in 17 games for the Pirates. Although his primary position before being traded from Kansas City was shortstop, Navarro has been moving all around the field for the Bucs.
In limited action this season, Navarro has hit for a .207/.294/.310 line in 29 at-bats, while making starts in left and third base for the Pirates. His versatility off the bench was a key factor to making the team out of spring training.
“We’ve moved him all over,” Hurdle said. “He’s much more athletic than I anticipated when we first got him. His arm will play anywhere. It’s just getting him out there and getting him reps. He doesn’t have that many Major League reps. He came up as a shortstop, played mostly infield. In Boston a little outfield…We’re going to have him moving around. We like the bat. The kid has fit in well with us. The versatility is a plus.”