Dahl relaxes approach to emerge in May

May 19th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- On Opening Day, Rangers outfielder had a three-hit outing vs. the Kansas City Royals. The next day, he went 2-for-4. But then a slump hit him through much of the first month.

Dahl, whom Texas signed this offseason after he was non-tendered by Colorado, slashed just .193/.225/.301 through April as he struggled with his at-bat quality and simply couldn’t put the barrel on the ball.

He described those struggles as feeling “panicky” at the plate after a few hitless games early in the season. Dahl said it almost felt like last season, when he also struggled early en route to an abysmal .183/.222/.247 season.

“I think early on I was just pressing and trying too hard to get hits,” Dahl said. “I was chasing everything and not hitting the ball very hard. Lately, I've just been trying to stick to my approach and really just hit the ball hard, and whatever happens. I’m not worrying about the hits and everything like that. With a long season, that will take care of itself. I’m feeling better and better, better mentally too.”

Dahl entered Tuesday with a slash line of .273/.319/.500 in May, and he had hits in 10 of his 13 games played this month, including two multi-hit outings during the Rangers' six-game road trip. He also hit a game-tying home run Sunday against the Astros, though Texas went on to lose the game.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Dahl’s at-bat and swing quality has been much better in recent weeks.

“It's nice to see him finally get to see results,” Woodward said. “It seemed like everything he hit hard was just being caught. He's got a little more conviction in those swings. There's a lot of positive signs obviously for him right now and I like where he’s at.”

Dahl said within the past month he’s changed his mental and physical approach to practicing hitting. He talked with fellow outfielders and designated-hitter rotation members Khris Davis and Willie Calhoun about things he could improve at the plate.

“The biggest is just not hitting too much,” Dahl said. “I think early on when I was DHing, I would be in the cage every inning just hitting and hitting and trying to get it right. The more you hit, the more you're gonna think about your swing. It's more just not over-swinging and over-hitting, and just kind of relaxing and letting what happens.”

Dahl, 27, has gotten more opportunity to DH this season than ever, coming over from the National League. He started at DH on Tuesday night against the Yankees for the 12th time this season. In four seasons with the Rockies, he was only the designated hitter twice, both times while dealing with injuries in 2020 (and with the full-time DH in the NL).

He said DHing has been a little weird for him, but he’s taken a lot of what Calhoun and Davis have said and implemented it at the plate. Though the three of them are all competing for two spots in the lineup, Dahl said they have a great relationship.

“That's the nature of the game,” Dahl said. “There's always guys deserving a play. I think the biggest thing that I'm just trying to do is stay ready when my name is called and play better than I had been. I like where I'm at. I've been hitting the ball harder and we're starting to see a little more results. I'm rooting for those guys too. The better we all play, the tougher the decisions are, and that's good for the team.”