McGehee starting to find his comfort zone
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A deep breath sometimes is the best remedy to get a player back on track.
Third baseman Casey McGehee, 31, is seeing that may be the case. After being eager to impress early in Spring Training, he has started to settle in over the past few days. Not surprisingly, now that he's in more of a comfort zone, he is starting to see results.
"The big thing for me is just slowing down, and not searching to change things," McGehee said. "I feel it took me a little longer to find my starting point. I feel like I've found that; now the key for me is to consistently stay there."
It took a blast and a solid approach last weekend against the Braves to get things going. At Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Saturday, McGehee homered to start the second inning in Miami's 6-6 tie. He chipped in with a couple of singles on Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the Tigers, raising his Grapefruit League average to .353.
"He looks good," manager Mike Redmond said. "I've been very happy and pleased with not only his defense but his at-bats."
Connecting on a home run, naturally, is a rallying point for any player. Foe McGehee, an even bigger sign that he is starting to get going came in his ensuing plate appearances.
"'It was not necessarily hitting one out but just having some good at-bats," McGehee said. "Hitting a couple of balls hard, it allows you to relax a little more. The biggest thing for me was the next at-bat. The approach I had in the next at-bat was the same. That was good for me. The third and fourth at-bats, not so much. But instead of it being one at-bat here and there, I got two in a row, I felt, with my approach. The key is trying to build on that."
Until this past weekend, McGehee felt as though he was rushing things. It's natural, because he is trying to make a strong first impression with his new team.
"I think that's just human nature," Redmond said. "When you're getting a fresh opportunity, a new start, you want to come in and prove to everyone that you made the right decision. That can work against you a little bit, trying too hard. As a player there is an adjustment period to come into a new place. It takes you a little while to relax. It's human nature to want to go out there and show everyone, 'Hey, I'm the guy. This was the right decision.'
"I know he will be fine. He looks great out there, and his at-bats have been solid. I've been very pleased with the process and how he's looked."
The Marlins signed McGehee to a one-year, $1.1 million contract in December after he enjoyed a strong 2013 playing for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. In his lone season overseas, he belted 27 home runs and drove in 90 runs in 137 games.
Like the Marlins, McGehee has something to prove, trying to re-establish himself in the big leagues at a time the club is striving to bounce back from a 100-loss season.
McGehee broke in with the Cubs in 2008, and he played for the Brewers, Pirates and Yankees before heading to Japan. With Milwaukee in 2010, he connected on 23 home runs and drove in 104 runs.
The way he performed in Japan caught the Marlins' attention, and now he is being looked at to provide some needed production at third base.
In Spring Training he is focused on keeping his swing in order.
"With my setup in the box, everything has a reaction," he said. "So if you have something out of whack from the start, further down the chain it's going to show up."
From a mechanical standpoint, McGehee has made a number of alterations over the years. When he was coming up, he had a pretty drastic stance, spread wide and positioned low.
"I tried a lot of different little tweaks here and there," he said. "I kind of got to the point where I found something that was going to work. I just needed to give it time to work."
During his year in Japan, McGehee dealt with a style of hitting that was completely opposite from his foundation.
"The one thing they do really well, though, is they keep the bat through the zone for a really long time," he said. "That was one thing I did try to mimic to an extent, within my own mechanics. I tried to mimic how long they kept the bat in the zone."
The way the pitchers in Japan change speeds, and throw any pitch in any count, required the discipline to stay patient and wait for a pitch to hit.
McGehee's approach was laying off the nasty pitches in hopes of getting a fastball.
"Timing is the biggest thing over there," he said. "Just like anywhere, but maybe even more so there. There will be drastic changes in velocity from one pitch to the next. They'd throw a 60-mph curveball followed by a 90-mph fastball. Then they might throw a 72-mph forkball. It's not like when you get a changeup here that is like a guy throwing 90 and then 82. It's 90 and 80 or 90 and 75. The timing is the big thing."