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Long’s help sparks Raynor’s success

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BRADENTON, Fla. — John Raynor is batting .313 through 14 games this spring. Part of the reason for his success is work he’s done with hitting coach Don Long.

In minicamp, Long helped Raynor stay balanced. During spring training, Raynor has focused on keeping his hands back. “I had the barrel wrapped around the back of my head a little bit,” Raynor said. “It feels like it’s lying flat, but it’s really getting it more straight up. That allows me to be more direct to the ball. It’s been great. I didn’t realize the bad habits I’d gotten into. It’s been a world of difference.”

The changes have not been dramatic, but they have made a big difference. “I’ve always had the right mental process, as far as attacking the ball,” Raynor said. “It’s just all in my setup and my hands. This allows the way I attack the ball to happen more freely.”

The issue with balance didn’t mean Raynor was falling over at the plate. What was happening was, his body — and especially his head — was moving forward as the pitcher was getting ready to deliver, then Raynor’s head would slide back and forth when he kicked up his leg as the ball came to the plate.

“When you have a leg tuck, you can get in trouble with your head moving too much in both directions,” Raynor said. “Now, it’s about keeping my head still, trying to stay in a little box instead of a big one.”

Raynor picked up the leg tuck after he was drafted by the Marlins in 2006.

“That’s my natural timing,” Raynor said. “I had never done it until I got into pro ball. The Marlins put that into my swing and I took off with it. It’s natural for me know. I picked up on it quick, so it was something that was natural to my swing.”

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Braves – 1. Nate McLouth cf, 2. Yunel Escobar ss, 3. Jason Heyward rf, 4. Matt Diaz lf, 5. Eric Hinske 1b, 6. Omar Infante 2b, 7. David Ross c, 8. Brooks Conrad 3b, 9. Kenshin Kawakami rhp.

Pirates – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Aki Iwamura 2b, 3. Andy LaRoche 3b, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Jeff Clement 1b, 6. Steve Pearce rf, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Brandon Moss lf, 9. Charlie Morton rhp

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