Brantley trusts swing to be 'same hitter' with power
CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley has learned that a swing is not always in need of fixing when a hitter encounters an offensive slump. That realization has helped the Indians left fielder focus on maintaining consistent mechanics and has led to steady results.
Through the first two months of this season, Brantley has emerged as Cleveland's top batter and a candidate to represent the club at this summer's All-Star Game. The outfielder said recently that one key for him was working this offseason to have more of a "mature" swing this year.
"That means just trusting my swing," Brantley said. "It's trusting that every time it's going to be all right and not trying to tinker or make adjustments when there's no need to."
Brantley, who has filled in as the Tribe's No. 3 hitter while second baseman Jason Kipnis has been on the disabled list with a right oblique injury, headed into Wednesday's action batting .291 with nine home runs, 10 doubles, 33 RBIs, 24 runs, more walks (17) than strikeouts (16) and an .877 OPS through 44 games.
Through 165 at-bats, Brantley is only one home run shy of the career-best 10 long balls he launched in 556 at-bats across all of last season. Beyond the home runs, the outfielder hit .284 with 26 doubles and 73 RBIs in 151 games in 2013.
"It's fun to watch," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Brantley's increased power. "I think his base is stronger -- his legs. As good hitters get to know themselves throughout the league, sometimes that evolves into more production. I think that's what you're seeing.
"I don't think you see him selling out to hit home runs. [It's] just balls that maybe used to be doubles, he's starting to drive over the fence, which is great to see. What I really like is the fact that he's the same hitter, he's just generating a few more home runs."
Brantley said attempting to be the same hitter with the same swing has been an important element to his game this season. In the past, the left fielder was tempted to toy with his mechanics when the inevitable in-season slump would surface.
"Absolutely. I was young," Brantley said. "I was trying to do whatever worked that felt good at the time, instead of going back to the basics and doing exactly what I was doing before. That's just not trying to do too much and putting good swings on good pitches."