Clint Barmes hasn’t had the most auspicious of starts with the Pirates, a fact he’s aware of perhaps more than anyone.
The shortstop, signed in the offseason for two years and $10.5 million, didn’t have a hit going into Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers. He hasn’t been the only member of the team struggling at the plate by any stretch. The same condition applies to the majority of the hitters at this point.
Manager Clint Hurdle, who had Barmes back in his Colorado Rockies days, said that the shortstop hasn’t been as comfortable as he’s seen him in the past, probably because he’s been trying to show everybody he belongs.
“If your focus is on playing well you tend to play a little more rigid, little more tight, with a little more anxiety,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to capture that mentality of being just out in the backyard playing. That’s usually the biggest challenge for someone coming from one organization to the next. You want to make an impact. You want to show them right away that you’re worthy and you’re here for all the right reasons and it’s one of the traps you can set for yourself to really not play with that confidence and relaxed atmosphere because you’re trying to force things.”
Barmes admitted as much after Wednesday’s game, in which he got his first hit to snap an 0-for-12 streak. It was a home run off Chad Billingsley in the third inning, and Barmes said early hitting work with coach Gregg Ritchie helped.
“Just more about the mental side and the approach than anything, really,” he said of the adjustments he made Wednesday prior to the game. “Early on I was maybe trying to do a little too much, getting a little too big at the plate and it causes me to over-swing, try to get a little too big at times. It hasn’t been good, I haven’t had really good at-bats until I felt like today, tonight anyway. Even my second and third at-bat got out both times but just seeing the ball better, felt like I put better swings on pitches I did the previous four games.”
Hurdle also said before yesterday’s game that he hopes the nine games in a row will give the team as a whole a chance to get into a routine, build some continuity and get into a rhythm more than the one day on, one day off, two days on, one day off schedule to start the season. As he also likes to say, time will tell.
= Sorry about the lack of blogging here the past few days. There have been myriad technical issues so far this trip, which I hope are now solved. Fingers crossed.