Blackmon adjusts to evolving strategies

May 4th, 2021

DENVER -- has never believed hitting was easy, but at one time it was simpler.

When he would lose his stroke, he would concentrate on hitting balls the opposite way to left field. After all, pitchers avoided throwing inside for fear they’d watch the left-handed-hitting Blackmon make dents in the right-field seats.

But the challenges have changed, so he has been forced to find new solutions.

Blackmon entered Tuesday batting .198, and .200 has been his high-water mark this season. But in his six most recent games entering Tuesday, he was 7-for-20 (.350) with two doubles. And, yes, he took pitches the to the middle and the opposite way. 

But it’s more complicated than that.

“People don’t pitch outside like they used to,” Blackmon said. “If they do, it’s strike-to-ball offspeed stuff. It’s fastballs up, action in, and then strike-to-ball, offspeed down. So you can’t just hit the sinker away. There’s not a whole lot of sinkers down and away anymore. Everything is elevated with spin rate, that kind of thing.”

Blackmon has been a fascinating watch since 2014, when he became a regular and made the first of his four All-Star trips. Yes, there is a science to his at-bats. But all the information that goes into pitching plans keeps Blackmon thinking and tinkering. The shift revolution has been enough to get Blackmon’s stomach churning.

Blackmon said he doesn’t like the idea of rules changes but added, “I don’t know if you want to watch power hitters try to bunt, or do you want to watch hard-hit balls, line drives to right field get caught by a second baseman who is playing 150 feet away from home plate?”

This built-in struggle is part of the happy misery that baseball brings.

“Hitting always seems to be a bit of a moving target, so there are just a few minor [adjustments], more a simplification -- less is more kind of approach to give myself a better chance of seeing the baseball,” Blackmon said. “I think that’s helped a little bit.

“You always get really upset when you don’t play well. I think I get more upset when I don’t play well than I get happy for playing well. That’s more of a reason to make your adjustments, to become more competitive when things aren’t going as planned.”

A turnaround
The Rockies called up right-hander to start the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday vs. the Giants. That represents a major turnaround. The club pulled him out of Major League Spring Training after a March 8 game in which he walked three and hit one, and didn’t manage an out, against the Reds. But between Minor League Spring Training and the alternate training site, Castellani reacquainted himself with the strike zone.

“He’s been throwing well, especially recently -- quality strikes,” Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster said.

Castellani was the 27th player for the doubleheader, so there was no need for a corresponding move.