Buxton's mindset 'clearer' than ever before
Outfielder's new approach to hitting paying dividends in hot start to Grapefruit League
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Byron Buxton said that he gained clarity when he wasn't recalled to the Major Leagues at the end of last season. He cut out the noise. He cut out his leg kick once more. And he spent the offseason working in solitude to find his swing again.
"It’s my swing, my thought process, my thinking," Buxton said. "Everything with my swing now is me. I didn’t go to no hitting coach. I didn’t go work out with nobody. I worked out by myself, I hit by myself and that’s where it’s going to stay."
Though Buxton has openly declared his frustration about the difficult conclusion to his 2018, when he struggled at the plate during an injury-plagued season and was passed over for a late-season promotion, he ultimately credits those difficulties for motivating his realization that something needed to change.
"It took last year to happen for me to figure this out," Buxton said. "I take last year as a positive sign for me. It allowed me to free my mind, and it allowed me to go [through] this offseason clearly, to get me where I am today.
"Everything is out of my head. I’m clearer now than I ever was."
When Buxton decided to bring back the leg kick in his swing for a second time after the 2017 season, he had to think about things during his plate appearances like when to lower his leg, where it had to land and where his foot needed to be -- and he hopes that bringing back his short, compact step will give him less to think about at the plate.
"Sometimes, you open yourself up to other people and kind of go that direction, but it seems like he’s very, very happy with the work he was able to get in this offseason, and as a staff we’re extremely happy as well from everything that we saw," manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Buxton is also trying to be more patient on first pitches this Spring Training. He said that in previous springs, he was being too aggressive on first-pitch fastballs so that he could get hits. But he has a bigger-picture goal in mind this time around: He knows he'll get fewer first-pitch fastballs during the regular season, so he wants to better prepare himself for off-speed offerings.
With that in mind, he's still angry at himself for an at-bat in which he didn't take the first pitch, even though he has yet to make an out this spring amidst a 5-for-5 start with two homers and 10 RBIs in two games. The results aren't as important to him as his approach.
"I'm just putting swings on the balls and figuring out my swing," Buxton said. "The more I swing, the more I figure it out."
Buxton added 21 pounds this offseason and showed up to Spring Training with a notably more muscular frame, but even with homers in each of his spring games, he shrugs off his round-trippers as "whatever," saying he's just focused on trying to make solid contact for base hits. But he still admits he's happy with how well the ball has been carrying so far.
"You know, it’s definitely coming off the bat a little better than I expected," Buxton said. "So that’s the positive side of it."