On a lonely spring-training field, Colin Walsh trudges to the batter's box for his third at-bat. Stuck in an 0-for-2 hole and "mad," the Quad Cities River Bandits infielder has an epiphany.|
"I went up there and I said, 'I'm swinging hard,'" Walsh said.
With that came Walsh's new hitting approach.
Viewed in the St. Louis Cardinals minor-league system as being a quality hitter, Walsh thought he needed to change some things if he wanted improved numbers and productivity. In order to do that, Walsh decided to swing harder, hoping it would produce more line drives.
"It sounds kind of simple and not great, but a lot of times, I wouldn't swing as hard as I should," Walsh said. "I've been working on that this year and making better contact and hitting with more power. I just feel better at the plate."
Finding a new comfort level, Walsh entered the weekend with the team lead in home runs (three) and sits second with 10 RBIs. Another positive indicator is his 10 extra-base hits, which are tied for the Midwest League lead.
The three home runs feed the assumption that swinging hard means the ball travels farther, perhaps over the fence. Walsh, though, did not do it to improve his power numbers. He wanted to improve his overall statistics by hitting the ball harder.
"Basically, I'm going up there and thinking that I want to hit this ball as hard as I can," Walsh said. "That's the way to do it for me. That's how I think about it."
Staying with his same hitting mechanics has given Walsh the ability to be productive at the plate despite some minor changes. He barely had any time to perfect the new approach before the regular season started, but the switch was quickly embraced by Walsh and the organization.
In fact, Cardinals farm director John Vuch calls it "a positive thing."
"The players know their own swing," Vuch said. "They know what they're capable of doing and not capable of doing. We always tell players to look at ways to make themselves better. If he can make himself better, we encourage that."
An encouraging sign is Walsh's ability to put the ball in play or, at the very least, put pressure on the opposing pitcher and defense. In 51 at-bats, he has 13 hits and drawn eight walks against six strikeouts.
"I'm not walking as much as normal," Walsh said. "I'm trying to be aggressive at the plate, so there are times I swing at pitches that aren't necessarily the best pitch to hit. I've done that a couple times. But I'm trying to swing at pitches I really want to hit and swing hard at them."
A .255 batting average may not sound ideal, but his ability to make contract can lead to long-term success. The Bandits know that's possible because of his hitting eye.
"He has a pretty good idea of the strike zone," Bandits manager Luis Aguayo said. "When you're looking at an area and they're throwing the ball there, he's going to swing."
Lately, he's been swinging hard and eliminating the mental part of batting. Rather than thinking, he's reacting and being more assertive.
"Taking that thinking part out of the game makes it easier to hit and makes me hit the ball harder," Walsh said.
By doing that, Walsh is developing into a better hitter with the potential for solid numbers.
"It's always great to make an adjustment and actually see improvement," Walsh said. " ... At the moment, it seems to be working. If it starts breaking down, I have to adjust from there. At this point, I want to keep working at what I'm doing and hit the ball really hard."
River Bandits extra bases
- Bandits this week: at Bowling Green (today-Tuesday); vs. West Michigan (Thursday-Saturday); vs. South Bend (Sunday)
- Bandits news and notes: The Bandits have an off day on Wednesday, ending a string of 16 consecutive games. It's the last off day until May 22. ... Directly after Saturday's game in Dayton, Ohio, the Bandits made a four-hour bus trip to Bowling Green, Ky. "It's a tough road trip because we have to spend a lot time in a bus," QC manager Luis Aguayo said. "That's my only concern -- we're spending more time on the bus than the field." ... Aguayo said infielder Tyler Rahmatulla's seven-day trip to the disabled list is for a sprained left thumb. Asked when Rahmatulla, who was put on the DL on Friday, could return, Aguayo said the team is "playing it by ear." ... St. Louis Cardinals farm director John Vuch said the current Bandits roster should stay in place for the foreseeable future. "We (recently) had a conference call with all our minor-league managers and rovers. The consensus was we have all the guys in the right place," Vuch said. "Right now, the guys are in the right place as far as being in the Quad-Cities. There's nobody knocking the door down (for a promotion)." ... Tyrell Jenkins (today) and Hector Hernandez (Tuesday) get the starts in the last two games at Bowling Green. Todd McInnis, Kyle Hald and Sam Gaviglio will start, in that order, for the series against West Michigan, which starts on Thursday. ... Aguayo said he will use the next few games to give some regulars a day off.
- QC alumni: Springfield Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras is tied for the Texas League lead with 14 RBIs and ranks sixth with a .328 batting average. Half of Taveras' 20 hits have gone for extra bases, including three home runs. Taveras played 78 games for the Bandits last year and was the Midwest League batting champion.
- FYI: This week is the first extended homestand for QC. Prior to the six-game homestand, the Bandits played six of their first 19 games at Modern Woodmen Park.
- Around the Midwest League: South Bend scored single tallies in the bottom of the ninth and 10th innings on Sunday to earn a 2-1 win over Wisconsin. Ender Inciarte's one-out double provided the game-winning run. The Silver Hawks begin a three-game series at Modern Woodmen Park next Sunday. ... Bowling Green grabbed a 6-2 victory on Friday against Cedar Rapids that was called in the top of the eighth due to rain in Bowling Green, Ky. ... Peoria and Great Lakes entered Sunday having scored 60 runs this season, the lowest total in the league. Those two teams met for a three-game series in Peoria earlier in the week and scored 30 total runs.
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