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Odor to bring revamped approach to plate

New hitting philosophy aided by former All-Star Victor Martinez
@Sullivan_Ranger
February 11, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Don’t panic. That’s the advice given to Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor this winter by a real-life cowboy with a big cattle ranch in South Florida. That cowboy is trying to make Odor a better hitter. Odor listened to every word he said, because before Victor Martinez

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Don’t panic.

That’s the advice given to Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor this winter by a real-life cowboy with a big cattle ranch in South Florida.

That cowboy is trying to make Odor a better hitter. Odor listened to every word he said, because before Victor Martinez started herding cattle, he was a five-time All-Star and a .295 hitter over a 16-year career.

“I was at his ranch a lot just talking this winter about hitting,” Odor said. “He was one of the best hitters in the game. That’s why I talked to him a lot.”

Martinez, who retired after the 2018 season, was also the first player to start tormenting Adrián Beltré by rubbing his bald head after a home run. Odor mastered that a long time ago.

What the Rangers slugger needs to do now is cut down his strikeouts, and Martinez’s advice is to not panic at the plate.

“We were talking about discipline at the plate,” Odor said Monday after taking batting practice at the Rangers' complex in Surprise.

“We don’t have to panic with two strikes,” Odor said. “When Martinez was a catcher, he would call a pitch, and not every time [would] the pitcher would throw it on the corner, down and away, up and in. Most of the time, the pitcher misses. So we don’t have to panic. Stay with the plan.”

Odor hit .103 when falling behind 0-2 in the count last season. He also did not draw one walk in those situations. Mike Trout and Alex Bregman each had 12 walks after falling behind 0-2 in the count. They are two of the best hitters in the game.

But Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. struck out 188 times and still managed to get 10 walks in those 0-2 situations. Odor hit .103/.103/.216 after falling behind 0-2. He was .232/.463/.500 after he was 2-0 in the count.

“You have to be the same with two strikes,” Odor said. “When [Martinez] hit, he didn’t care if he got two strikes. He’s going to keep with what he was thinking and stay with the approach, even with two strikes. Sometimes we get up there and the pitcher pounds us with two strikes. Then we change our plan just because we have two strikes. But if we stay with our plan, we can have success.”

Will it work?

The Rangers expect it to. General manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers need more out of Odor this season, and manager Chris Woodward said some players will be “given less rope” this season. With second baseman Nick Solak in camp, the message is clear.

“I am on the same page,” Odor said. “I think I can be better than what I did last year.”

Odor had his moments last season, leading the club with 30 home runs and 93 RBIs. Almost any team would be thrilled to get that out of a second baseman. But his .205 batting average was the lowest in the American League, his .283 on-base percentage was the second lowest, and he was tied for the league lead with 178 strikeouts.

That’s not the year I want,” Odor said. “I need something more. Yeah, 30 home runs and 90-something RBIs is great, but I want something more. I want to be better than that.”

He has three years and $37 million left on the six-year contract extension signed at the end of Spring Training in 2017.

“The contract doesn’t put pressure on me,” Odor said. “You play more relaxed. When you don’t have a contract, you really try hard to do better. Everybody thinks when you have a contract, you want to show people you can be better. It’s not like that.

“I play this game because I love it. I don’t play this game for the money. My whole family plays this game. I have been watching it since I was born. I just play this game because it is the only thing I know how to do.”

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.