HR-hitting 'Zuk' should have gone with 'Zeus'

August 26th, 2017

ATLANTA -- Accounting for the tremendous power he has displayed over the past two months, it appears chose the wrong nickname for Players Weekend. Instead of "Zuk", the Braves catcher probably should have gone with "Zeus."

Suzuki extended his impressive and unexpected power surge when he homered to begin the three-run second inning that propelled the Braves to a 5-2 win over the Rockies on Friday night at SunTrust Park. His home run ratio rivals the one has produced since the start of July and has consequently already matched the career-best 15 homers he tallied for the 2009 A's.

"I found a snake in my house recently, so [trainer Jeff Porter] has been calling me copperhead," Suzuki said. "He says I should have put copperhead on top of my jersey."

Though the mild-mannered Hawaiian certainly isn't as intimidating as the venomous snake, he has certainly shown the ability to sneak up and attack opposing pitchers with frequent ferocity. Suzuki has homered 11 times over 81 at-bats dating back to July 1. The 7.36 AB/HR ratio he has produced within this span would have ranked third among all Major Leaguers who had tallied at least 80 at-bats entering Friday. The only players who entered the weekend with a better ratio were Stanton and Joey Gallo.

"He's got another five or six weeks," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Hopefully, he can run with it a little longer."

When Suzuki signed a one-year deal with the Braves in January to serve as their backup catcher, there certainly wasn't reason to anticipate this kind of power. The 33-year-old catcher totaled 16 homers over the three previous seasons combined and hadn't tallied a double-digit homer total since 2011.

"I can't explain it," Suzuki said. "I just go up there, look for a good pitch and try to be aggressive right away."

Throughout most of his career, Suzuki would finish his batting practice swings with one hand on the bat, but could not duplicate this during games. Thus, in May, Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer suggested he simply concentrate on finishing his BP swings with two hands on the bat.

Since taking about 150 swings in the cage one day, Suzuki has altered his pregame swings and seemingly gained better results during games.

"I just tried to be loose and hit with two hands until it became a habit," Suzuki said. "It's hard for me to let go with one hand now. So, it's instilled now."

While sharing the catching duties, Suzuki and Tyler Flowers have combined to hit 26 homers. Flowers has a $4 million option for the 2018 season that the club would certainly have reason to exercise.

Suzuki will be seeking more than the $1.5 million salary base he agreed to this past winter, but he, too, seems to have gained reason to at least seriously contemplate returning next year.

"My No.1 [objective this year] was winning, but I just wanted to have fun and play baseball again," Suzuki said. "I'm having a blast here with the guys and coaching staff, guys that work here and the front office. It's been great."