Small swing fix has Hedges in a good place

Padres catcher has four home runs in last seven games

April 22nd, 2017

SAN DIEGO -- To the untrained eye, it's practically indiscernible, but ' current swing is not the same one he used when he started the season 0-for-24.

About a week ago, the Padres noticed Hedges' hands moving a split second later than they had in the past -- and after the rest of his body loaded to swing.

"We showed him video, brought his attention to that," said Padres hitting coach Alan Zinter. "He was like, 'Oh, easy.' And he went out the next day and hit a home run off R.A. Dickey. He's been working on it since, just putting his hands back in sequence."

The tweak, however minor, has paid major dividends over the past week -- including Friday, when he slugged a three-run home run in a 5-3 victory over the Marlins. In his last seven games, Hedges is 7-for-20 with two doubles and four home runs.

"My hands weren't in sync with my lower half," Hedges said. "It was really just about getting them all synced up. ... It wasn't a huge adjustment. It was very small. It's something I already did."

As catcher, Hedges spends the bulk of his time gameplanning for that day's pitcher. He's renowned for his defensive prowess and his ability to work with a pitching staff.

The way the Padres see it, if Hedges develops into a league-average hitter as a catcher, the rest of his game could carry him to All-Star status.

"He's an anchor to this club," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He's got the ability to be our heart and soul on a baseball field, and for a young catcher, that's saying a lot."

As a result, Hedges' bat is sometimes written off. It's still very much a question mark. He's a career .163 hitter, but he's only received 230 plate appearances -- many of them in sporadic backup duty over the previous two years. Last year at Triple-A El Paso, Hedges hit .326 with 21 homers.

"I wasn't worried about him one bit," said Padres right fielder , who -- along with Hedges -- helped propel El Paso to the Pacific Coast League title last season. "Obviously he hasn't done what he did in Triple-A in the big leagues yet. But in the past few days he's been raking. That's the Hedgy I know, that's the Hedgy I've always played with. I wasn't worried about him at all."

As for his hitting prowess, the Padres worked to install a leg kick before the 2016 season, which helped increase his power numbers. Still, it took quite a bit of tinkering, and Zinter noted that the adjustments may have been what threw Hedges' timing off in the first place.

"He's made a few mechanical adjustments over the past year and a half," Zinter said. "When you make all these adjustments, you can get out of sequence. We've been working on the leg kick, and his timing, and in the process, his hands got a little bit out of sequence."

They're back in sequence now, Zinter says. And Hedges, for the first time as a Major Leaguer, has put together a sustained run of success at the plate.

"The really good hitters are efficient in their movement, and they're always in sequence," Zinter said. "... This is something that was minor, it was something simple, it wasn't an overhaul."