Nearly all of the buzz in the Indianapolis outfield this season has been designated for Gregory Polanco. However, just to the right of the star prospect is a hitter who has been slightly overshadowed in Chris Dickerson.
Dickerson has hit .329 in 40 games, with 18 extra base hits. He also boasted a 16-game hit streak earlier in the season, which was broken May 19. He has a .410 OBP and has reached base in 36 of his 38 starts this season.
“It is just having a plan and sticking to it day after day,” Dickerson said. “It is just staying within yourself and not trying to do too much. Being in the leadoff spot just keeps me in the frame of mind to do whatever I can to get on base.”
Though he has hit four home runs, Dickerson admitted that it is not about the long ball for him being in the leadoff role. This allows him to focus on keeping his swing level and hitting the ball in the gaps. Batting leadoff has also allowed Dickerson to form a relationship with Polanco. Though the bond is friendly, it also contains a competition aspect.
“The guys behind me, especially Polanco, we have made it a competition,” Dickerson said. “For me, it is kind of the Jerry Maguire factor – help me help you. We kind of having a little thing going where he’s mad when I’m out of the lineup because I won’t be on base for him and when I am on base, I am giving him the opportunity to help himself and the team by driving in runs.”
In addition, Dickerson has been helping with Polanco’s defense in right field. For the pair, success defensively is all about preparation, as Polanco is switching positions in the outfield this season.
“We have done a lot of work the last couple of weeks with ground balls, his transfers, and learning how to assess different fields and different atmospheres,” Dickerson said. “It’s all different things and I have just told him that it is something that he is going to have to do his first year in big leagues…every field that he is going to get to is going to be brand new to him. He needs to get out there and make sure that he is getting the lay of the land as soon as he gets there, so he is that much more comfortable.”
Defense is general is an aspect of the game that Dickerson takes very seriously. Saving runs and showing range while being a “safety net for the pitchers” are the goals for Dickerson in center field.
“It’s just repetition,” Dickerson said. “It’s the work that you put on during the offseason and in spring training. It is just getting good jumps and having good communication out there. It is essentially having three different center fielders with me, (Jaff) Decker, and Polanco. When you have that many guys who can cover that much ground, it gets difficult, but we have managed it.”
Dickerson left the game on Wednesday with a right heel injury and was placed on the disabled list on Friday. Prior to the ailment, Dickerson also admitted that he has been hampered by a bulky hamstring for a couple of weeks. This has limited his range recently.
Indianapolis hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo has noticed the work that Dickerson puts in and said that there are two ways to practice – going through the motions and practicing like it is a game experience. He said that Dickerson “practices more game-like than most.” This has aided Dickerson when it comes to his time in between the lines this season.
“He is preparing for games better and his practice is really good,” Pagliarulo said. “He practices with a purpose and works on hitting the ball to all fields. He is running the bases well and he is very consistent.”
Dickerson has played 314 Major League games with four different teams over six seasons, where he is a career .262 hitter. He said that he has embraced the leadership role on the team and is open to any questions when players come to him. He said that it comes with the territory of being the more experienced player on the squad. While he could eventually aid the big league squad, Dickerson is taking a future star under his wing and teaching him how to play the right way in Triple-A. In the long run, this will show to be much more valuable that a couple of months with the Pirates.