Roenicke notices change in Betancourt
MILWAUKEE -- Yuniesky Betancourt's pitches per plate appearance do not show it yet, but manager Ron Roenicke's eyes see a different hitter than the one who manned shortstop in Milwaukee two years ago.
"He's more patient than he was before," Roenicke said. "He sees the off-speed stuff better. Really, he looks like a good offensive player."
Roenicke quickly added: "I don't want to say he wasn't a good offensive player two years ago."
In the big picture, the numbers have yet to bear-out the shift Roenicke sees. Betancourt, who has been playing first base for the first time in his career, averaged 3.17 pitches in his first 41 plate appearances in 2013, barely better than his 3.16 pitches per plate appearance with the Brewers in 2011.
But he has been swinging at a slightly lower percentage of pitches overall (56.1 percent this season vs. 57.4 percent in 2011) and a lower percentage of pitches outside the strike zone (39.2 percent vs. 40.3 percent). Those numbers come from Baseball Info Solutions, via the website FanGraphs.com.
This newfound discipline is by design, said Betancourt, who worked to curb his famously aggressive approach while playing winter ball in Mexico.
"Mexico helped me a lot. That was the main thing, go there to be more patient and get better pitches to hit," Betancourt said, via catcher/translator Martin Maldonado. "I was working hard down there."
Why make such a change in his ninth Major League season?
"Better learning later than never," Betancourt said.
Betancourt is the Brewers' regular first baseman these days, and he entered his Thursday afternoon start on a hot streak, going 5-for-13 with two home runs during a four-game hitting streak. His grand slam on Tuesday gave Betancourt half of his eight RBIs, tied with Ryan Braun for the team lead.