Platoon who? Grossman mashing from both sides

March 22nd, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When the Rangers signed free agent to a one-year deal in February, the plan was for the veteran to slot in as a platoon option in left field.

A switch-hitter, Grossman hit .320/.436/.443 against left-handed pitching and .163/.253/.256 against righties in 2022. Those splits make him an ideal candidate for a platoon, but they’re also a drastic shift from Grossman’s past numbers.

After setting out to adjust his swing and improve his numbers from the left side of the plate, Grossman now figures to be the Rangers’ Opening Day left fielder.

“A lot of work and a lot of swings went into it this offseason,” Grossman said. “And understanding what I needed to change, it’s something that you’ve just got to continuously work on. Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing in sports, and I like the challenge.”

Grossman displayed those adjustments in Saturday’s 4-0 split-squad loss to the Giants, going 1-for-3 with his lone hit (a single) coming as a left-handed batter vs. San Francisco right-hander Jakob Junis in the 6th inning.

As far as what needed to change, Grossman and hitting coach Tim Hyers noticed that his growing leg kick and instability in his swing contributed to the lack of results against right-handed pitching.

“I think he came in focused,” Hyers said. “Maybe got away from himself last year left-handed, and possibly the leg kick kind of got a little big and didn’t have the same body control with his upper body as he had in [2019]. And I think he just wanted to get back to that.”

In 2019, Grossman batted .250 from the left side, compared to .173 from the right. Again in ‘20 -- albeit in a much smaller sample size during the shortened season -- Grossman was better from the left side (.260) than the right (.100). But in ‘21, the outfielder saw a shift, batting .221 as a lefty and .279 as a righty.

“More than results, I feel like I can trigger my swing when I want to swing,” Grossman said of his adjustments. “And I feel like I’m in a good position when I land. And that’s more important to me. Continue to work, and these guys have been great to me here.”

“Tim and [bench coach and offensive coordinator] Donnie [Ecker] and [assistant hitting coach] Seth [Conner], they’ve challenged me every day, they keep throwing new things at me, and [I’m] excited to keep working and progressing, and I’m excited to be a Texas Ranger.”

Through 37 at-bats this spring, Grossman has slashed .378/.478/.595 with a 1.073 OPS. He’s homered from both sides of the plate, with a two-run shot vs. Royals lefty Daniel Lynch and an opposite-field two-run blast against Reds right-hander Buck Farmer.

“I like the way he’s swinging the bat,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The left side is talked about, and I think he’s made a nice adjustment there. He’s been a pleasure, he really has been. … He’s always, whatever you need or want, he’s ready to go. So he was a great signing for us, and he’s made us better.”

Pérez returns from Miami
was back in the Rangers’ clubhouse at Surprise Stadium on Wednesday morning. The left-hander opened the World Baseball Classic for Team Venezuela, allowing just one run while striking out four and walking two over 3 1/3 innings against a stacked Dominican Republic lineup. Pérez didn’t fare as well in his second outing, getting pulled in the first inning of Saturday’s quarterfinal vs. Team USA.

After his last start, Pérez threw a 40-45 pitch bullpen session and is slated to pitch in a Minor League game on Thursday night. Despite an early exit from Venezuela’s final game of the tournament, Pérez left Miami with positive notes on his experience.

“Good energy -- playing for the Venezuelan team is amazing, especially when you have a lot of fans from your country,” Pérez said. “And you know you got all the support and all of your family is watching you, and all the world is watching you, what you’ve been doing. So for me it was a good experience.”