After a strong spring that carried into the start of the season, Jaff Decker missed about a month of action with Indianapolis with an injured hand. Even after the injury, Decker has not missed a beat. Since returning from the DL on May 22, Decker has reached base safely in all eight games, with hits in seven of those games. He credits the work that he did in Florida to get back in his nice bounce back.
“It was pretty stressful being down here and being on the bench for those three weeks not being able to do anything,” Decker said. “It is tough because you work all off-season to get ready for the start of the season. It is kind of a setback. I went down to Florida with a purpose to get back with no excuses. I worked on a lot of things down there and got stuff right.”
While Decker said that the hand is feeling better and he doesn’t wake up in pain anymore, he said that it is not quite back to 100 percent. However, he did say that it was close.
In 39 Spring Training at bats, Decker hit .256 with three doubles and a home run. After starting the season on the DL as well, Decker still was able to carry that work into the regular season, as he was hitting .304 prior to the injury.
Much of the reason that he was able to continue the success and stay consistent was due to the offseason work that he put in, revamping his swing.
“I started hitting a lot earlier this off-season with my dad and one of my best buddies back home,” Decker said. “We kind of reconstructed the swing and make it a little shorter and more consistent. When you get to the big leagues, the ball moves a whole bunch. The more consistent that you can be the more successful that you are going to be and that is one thing that I worked on this whole offseason and it is paying off. That is one part of my game where I can see that the swing change has helped.”
Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar echoed that the work has paid off in his approach, stating that they have really hit it off while working with each other
“[Decker] admitted to me that last year, he got away from his approach at the plate,” Wynegar said. “He started trying to do some things that, looking back, he does not know why he tried them. He was trying to hit for more power and everything. He is not a power guy. He has got some juice in his bat, but it is accidental home run power. He is a guy that needs to think about leading the league in doubles and using the whole field.”
Wynegar said that Decker now realizes how important that his approach is at the plate, while not trying to pull the ball every time. While he said that there are times where pulling it is necessary, but he needs to be patient with it. Wynegar said that they have worked on some small mechanical aspects, but that it is mostly mental.
Decker said that the main motivator this off-season was not joining the Pirates when the rosters expanded in September. However, he also admitted that it may have been for the best.
“There was kind of the bummer that I didn’t get called up in September,” Decker said. “It gave me something to work for this off-season and it pushed me a lot harder to figure out who I need to be to help the Pirates win and help further my career.”
Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said that he is certainly glad to have Decker back in the lineup.
“He is swinging the bat well,” Treanor said. “It was just a matter of getting him healthy. It took a while. It was a process, having to go down to Florida to get some at bats before he got back with us again. I think that it was obviously good for him to go down and do that because he has come in here and swung that bat well since he came back.”
While the Pittsburgh outfield is extremely deep at the big league and upper minor league levels, if Decker is able to continue his early season success, he will get his wish and certainly get some September work this season.