SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Boxers learn to keep their hands elevated, lest they expose themselves to a vicious punch. Giants outfielder Mac Williamson has lowered his hands and has just begun to fight.Williamson has altered his hitting mechanics to achieve remarkable results during Cactus League action. He appeared in Sunday's 5-4
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Boxers learn to keep their hands elevated, lest they expose themselves to a vicious punch. Giants outfielder Mac Williamson has lowered his hands and has just begun to fight.
Williamson has altered his hitting mechanics to achieve remarkable results during Cactus League action. He appeared in Sunday's 5-4 Cactus League victory over San Diego and grounded into a force play in his lone at-bat, which shaved his batting average to a still-impressive .412 in 15 games.
The Giants welcome Williamson's surge. They're seeing the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder sustain production that's commensurate with his considerable physical gifts.
"I love it," left fielder Hunter Pence said. "He's such a strong athlete. Now he has a foundation where he can trust his swing."
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Williamson is competing for a reserve role in the outfield, though he has plenty of competition. Giants manager Bruce Bochy reiterated that each of the 10 outfielders in camp remains "in the mix" for a spot on the 25-man Opening Day roster. With the Giants likely to keep a maximum of five outfielders, and given that Pence, Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson are assured of jobs, Williamson is among seven outfielders battling for two openings.
Williamson has commanded the Giants' attention by recording two doubles, two triples and four home runs among his 14 hits. He has increased his pop by making simple yet significant adjustments: dropping his hands and narrowing his batting stance. These techniques have helped him take a quicker, more direct path to each pitch.
Williamson learned these stratagems from Doug Latta, an accomplished hitting coach based near Los Angeles. Latta is credited with transforming third baseman Justin Turner, once a backup with the Mets and now an All-Star with the Dodgers. Catcher Tim Federowicz, who spent last year in the Giants' organization, recommended Latta to Williamson. After batting .226 in 92 games spanning parts of three seasons with the Giants, Williamson knew changes were necessary.
"I'm not getting any younger," Williamson reasoned. "I'm 27, and what I have done in the past hasn't worked. I've gotten some really good opportunities to show what I can do at the big league level, and I haven't fully taken advantage of them. ... I didn't want another year or two or three of the same bouncing around. Who knows what the future holds this year, but I want to be able to put myself in a better position to be successful whenever I get another opportunity."
Each visit to Latta, whom Williamson saw several times per week throughout January, required him to hurl himself into Los Angeles' notorious freeway traffic for two hours. This barely perturbed Williamson.
"It was a commitment to try to get a change going in my career and really make something happen," he said.
Williamson never allowed his struggles to overwhelm him.
"I've always had a belief in myself," he said. "I think when you get to this level, you had to have had some sort of self-confidence, arrogance and cockiness, to some degree, to believe in yourself and your ability to perform."
Something's working for Williamson, as he proved Saturday by clobbering a titanic home run over the center-field batter's eye at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The long ball overcame light rain and a breeze that was blowing in.
"It was really impressive," Pence said. "That was not an Arizona home run."
Giants hitting coach Alonzo Powell has encouraged Williamson to stick with the mechanics he learned during the offseason.
"He's doing exactly what you're supposed to do," Powell said. "You want to play well and put pressure on your organization to make a decision."
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.