GOODYEAR, Ariz. –- The hits aren’t accumulating for Yoenis Cespedes this spring, but the frustration is.
So as Oakland A’s hitting coach Chili Davis works with his cleanup man to be shorter with his swing, he also wants Cespedes to keep his cool and stick with the plan.
“It’s not gonna be perfect every time,” Davis said Sunday. “But for Ces, he expects perfection. It frustrates him that he’s not perfect every time. It’s not a bad thing, but you’ve gotta understand that this game is an imperfect game.”
It’s been a rough go for Cespedes at the plate so far. The left fielder went 0 for 2 in Sunday’s 7-6 loss to Cincinnati to drop his average to .111 (4 for 36) with no homers through 13 games. He’s 0 for 20 over his last eight games.
After Cespedes’ average dropped to .240 in his second major league season in 2013, he came into camp talking about shortening his swing and being quicker to the ball. As he’s trying to make that adjustment, he’s having trouble lifting the ball and generating power. That frustrates him, according to Davis, and sometimes that makes Cespedes lose his focus on the adjustments they’re trying to make.
“I think sometimes he has (used a shorter stroke),” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “And other times, after a couple at-bats, he gets a little angry and wants to hit the ball a mile. Then he realizes how he needs to work on things. He’s quite the competitor. If he doesn’t see results right away, it’s difficult for him at times to stick with it.”
Addressing reporters after he left Sunday’s game, Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto that his new swing is still a work in progress.
“I have some days that are good and some days that are bad,” he said. “It’s kind of a little difficult for me to create that swing when my whole life I’ve had a long swing.”
Getting his timing down is his toughest task, he said, because he took a longer stride last season. But he expressed confidence that he’ll find his rhythm.
“I don’t worry too much about it because of the way I prepared myself during the offseason. I’m sure I’m going to do good during the season either with the short swing or with the long swing.”
Cespedes was in the batting cage behind Phoenix Municipal Stadium’s main field Sunday morning, doing tee work and soft toss. Davis said Cespedes is one of the most diligent A’s hitters when it comes to doing early work. He’s giving Cespedes drills that can help the slugger create backspin on the ball – causing it to carry farther in the air – even while incorporating a shorter swing.
Davis used Derek Norris as an example of an Oakland hitter who gets good backspin using a short swing.
“You don’t need him to force it,” Davis said of Cespedes. “You backspin the ball. And if you’re on it, and you square it up, if it’s airborn, it’s gone. Whenever you make any kind of swing change or set-up change with a hitter, the most important thing, for a power guy, is you gotta feel your power from there.”
It goes without saying that a productive Cespedes is critical for the A’s run production. He hit .292 as a rookie in 2012 but took a step backward last season with the bat. His homers increased but his strikeouts rose (102 to 137) and his average fell 52 points.
Davis claims he isn’t worried about Cespedes finding his groove by the March 31 season opener.
“He likes the noise, and he shows up for the noise,” Davis said. “I think he gets bored sometimes. Some guys like that noise. He likes that big crowd.”