Cespedes working to shorten swing, cut down on strikeouts

Cespedes working to shorten swing, cut down on strikeouts
February 23, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Yoenis Cespedes wants to cut down on his strikeouts after striking out 137 times in 135 games last season. (AP)

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PHOENIX – Yoenis Cespedes’ efforts to shorten his swing have not kept him from launching some deep home runs so far in spring training batting practice.

And that’s precisely the point, according to the Oakland A’s left fielder. He doesn’t believe he has to sacrifice power while trying to adopt a shorter batting stroke aimed at cutting down his strikeouts.

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“I don’t think too much about hitting the ball so hard,” Cespedes said Sunday through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "I think about making good contact, and if the ball’s gone, it’s gone.”

A’s manager Bob Melvin said it’s tough to get a good read on the adjustments Cespedes has made until exhibition games begin. Oakland plays its Cactus League opener Wednesday against the Giants in Scottsdale.

“More than anything for me, it’s the mindset and awareness of what he needs to do” that is encouraging, Melvin said.

But Cespedes also made some adjustments outside of the batter’s box. During the winter, his rigorous workouts with trainer Adam Brush in Florida were designed with an eye toward keeping him healthier.

Cespedes said he did extensive work on his hamstrings in particular, and he’s hopeful that added leg strength will help him avoid lower-body injuries. A hamstring strain put him on the shelf for a stretch midway through the 2012 season.

Cespedes has played in just 129 and 135 games over his first two major league seasons. The A’s were 83-50 last season with their left fielder in the lineup and 13-16 when he didn’t start.

[RELATED: Melvin reveals A's rotation for exhibition series vs. Giants]

It’s worth noting that another more subtle factor might also aid the Cuban native. Cespedes’ English continues to get better and better. That much is clear in his communication with reporters. And he acknowledged that being able to communicate better with teammates and coaches on his own might also help him on the field.

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