LeMahieu's swing not missing much in spring

Second baseman maintaining same approach that won him batting title

March 16th, 2018

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If Spring Training is a laboratory, the Rockies' DJ LeMahieu is that dude in chemistry class who not only did all his homework but finished the class assignment at home. You know, with the Bunsen burners that happened to be laying around his room.

LeMahieu likes his swing. With a .348 average and a National League batting title in 2016 and a .310 mark last year, a lot of people like it, too. Without a project this spring, LeMahieu has simply hit: .448 (13-for-29) with three doubles and a homer, a grand slam just left of center field off righty during Thursday's 10-8 loss to the Angels at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

The inside-out swing that has made him one of the most successful opposite-way hitters in the game is intact. So Spring Training is mainly an exercise in keeping it until the March 29 regular-season opener and beyond.

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"I've felt pretty comfortable at the plate," LeMahieu said. "The things I've been working on are translating into a game right now, which is a good feeling. But it's Spring Training, so I take it with a grain of salt, too."

In the same clubhouse is , who carried a 3-for-31 spring into Friday's game against the Angels at Tempe, Ariz. The difference is Desmond changed his hand positioning and is using these games to find his timing. But with neither his numbers nor LeMahieu's relevant once the season begins, Spring Training has different meanings to different folks.

LeMahieu had enough swing-building, some of it fruitless, early in his career.

Drafted by the Cubs in the second round out of LSU in 2009, LeMahieu took a logical suggestion -- learn to pull balls in hopes the swing and his 6-4, 220-pound frame would produce power -- but it simply didn't work for him. Traded to the Rockies after the 2011 season, he worked first with manager Jim Tracy to find his proper swing, and manager Walt Weiss endorsed LeMahieu's approach. He found happiness going the other way.

Stat analysts ding him either because they expect anyone whose home games are at Coors Field to be a power machine, or because other second baseman have turned it into a power position. For LeMahieu, average, getting on base and defense -- having won the Rawlings Gold Glove and Wilson Defensive Player of the Year two times apiece -- will suffice.

• DJ finding groove hitting to opposite field

And he is simply a difficult assignment for a pitcher. LeMahieu ran the home run at-bat to Middleton to nine pitches. The five foul balls were on pitches of 96.1 mph, 96.3, 97.3, 97.0 and 96.9 before he blasted Middleton's 85-mph slider.

"He's doing what he does -- he gets hits, he's moving the ball around the field, making hard contact, seeing the ball well, squaring up mistakes," manager Bud Black said.

LeMahieu has settled on a swing and an approach, even with the occasional blast to center, like Thursday or like on Sept. 13 against D-backs left-hander , or even a pull shot. But that doesn't mean he's taking success for granted.

"If I focus on the things I need to focus on, it'll translate," he said. "You get in trouble when you just show up and expect things to happen."