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Nats encouraged by Wieters' swing tweaks

Catcher, leaner after offseason conditioning, adjusted approach with new hitting coach Long
MLB.com @JamalCollier

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One of the most encouraging developments for the Nationals through the beginning of the spring has been the progress catcher Matt Wieters has made with his swing while working with new hitting coach Kevin Long. The club has been raving about Wieters since the start of camp, after he arrived leaner and rejuvenated.

Wieters has already started to see early results. He made his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday, going 2-for-2, clubbing a two-run home run and scoring a pair of runs.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One of the most encouraging developments for the Nationals through the beginning of the spring has been the progress catcher Matt Wieters has made with his swing while working with new hitting coach Kevin Long. The club has been raving about Wieters since the start of camp, after he arrived leaner and rejuvenated.

Wieters has already started to see early results. He made his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday, going 2-for-2, clubbing a two-run home run and scoring a pair of runs.

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"It's a good feeling to be able to carry over what you've put some time and effort into to live at-bats," Wieters said. "A lot of both the cognitive drills that we've been doing have definitely helped pick up the ball a little bit. And kind of swing mechanics, getting the legs to feel good. So it's encouraging and results are results, but more than anything, I felt like I saw the ball well and I felt good in my legs, which was what we were shooting for."

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Wieters said the tweaks have helped his legs stay grounded and not get crossed up, freeing his upper body to be quicker. His swing grew longer as the season progressed last year, and his new approach could eliminate that. The switch-hitter believes it could help from both sides of the plate.

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The Nationals are hoping these adjustments, along with the nearly 15 pounds he dropped in the offseason, will help Wieters bounce back from perhaps the worst season of his career. Increased production from him at the bottom of the lineup could add to what should already be one of the Majors' best lineups.

"It'll be a great benefit to have him at the back end of the order being able to drive in runs," manager Dave Martinez said. "Those tack-on runs are huge. And one through six, those guys are going to get on base, they're going to drive in runs, but if you got a guy like him driving in runs as well, that makes him deep in our lineup."

Video: Outlook: Veteran Wieters can contribute in 2018

Of course, the returns are early and Wieters still has a long way to go this spring and before the season begins. Washington has introduced a plan to keep him fresh, incorporating him into the spring slowly and reducing his number of games during the regular season.

"It's good for him to have the results, but his swing looked good all camp so far," Martinez said. "He's made some good adjustments and the big thing is he feels great. His body feels great, so that's a plus. I just want him to stay that way."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Matt Wieters