Yoshida changed his stance and hits followed

May 4th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The last time the Red Sox left for a road trip, ’s batting average was .189 in his first 53 at-bats as a Major Leaguer. He had just two extra-base hits. His on-base percentage (.317) was considerably higher than his slugging percentage (.264).

Later Thursday, after Boston completes what has already been a successful homestand, Yoshida will get on the flight to Philadelphia in a much more confident state than he was when the club left for Milwaukee on April 20.

Yoshida found himself in Milwaukee, proved it was no fluke in Baltimore and then treated the Fenway fans to a hit parade over the last several days.

As the Red Sox go for a four-game sweep against the Blue Jays, Yoshida will start the day with the longest active hitting streak in the Majors at 13 games.

During that run, he is 22-for-51 with 10 runs, five doubles, four homers and 15 RBIs.

So, what happened?

Yoshida, following some consultation with the coaching staff, opened up his batting stance. A slight adjustment led to him seeing the ball far better than he was earlier in the season. After all, it is pretty hard to hit what you aren’t seeing.

“I can pick out the balls that I should swing at, so I think that’s why I’m doing well,” said Yoshida. “I'm focused on my batting form, especially my stance. So, stance-wise, I'm stepping with my right foot back a little bit. Then, it makes me more comfortable to see the ball. I haven’t changed anything swing-wise.”

Nor would the Red Sox want the left-handed hitter to change anything to a pretty swing that led to a successful career in Japan and a breakout performance in the World Baseball Classic in March. The stance adjustment came from the “hitting group,” as manager Alex Cora calls it, led by assistant hitting coach Luis Ortiz.

“With Luis especially, they talked about it, they made some adjustments,” Cora said. “You can see the hands, where they’re at right now, a little bit more relaxed. We’re learning who he is. He’s learning the group.”

The Red Sox got way out in front of trying to shorten Yoshida’s learning curve back in the offseason when they consulted with his hitting coaches from the Nippon Professional Baseball team, the Orix Buffaloes.

“They talked about rolling over to second and what’s going to happen and why it happens with him,” said Cora. “I think that helped us in a sense, and just talking to those guys and learning a little bit about him, it was huge for us.”

Aside from the stance adjustments, Yoshida picked up another significant thing about pitching patterns in MLB compared to the NPB.

“I learned the pitchers in MLB prefer to use heaters up in the zone,” said Yoshida. “I figured that out.”

Meanwhile, Red Sox players are figuring out something they had already suspected -- that Yoshida can thrive in MLB.

“It’s unbelievable what he’s doing right now,” said Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas. “He got off to a slow start. I think everybody expected him to have his struggles early. But now, we see him hitting his stride and doing his thing. And, you know, when he's on, he can carry a lineup.”