|Brentz Staying Patient|
Brentz homered for the second straight day
PORTLAND, ME - With a reputation like Bryce Brentz', it's can be difficult to get a pitch you can drive every at-bat. The Sea Dogs' outfielder, who's been touted by many as the Red Sox organization's number one power hitting prospect, has seen his fair share of offspeed pitches in his first season in Double-A, and as a result has had a slow start.
But despite his struggles, Brentz has kept a positive attitude and a hard work ethic toward hitting, and things are starting to slowly fall into place.
"I've still been getting a lot of offspeed pitches early, and I'm expecting that now so I pretty much just take it," he said. "I'm trying to work counts back in my favor."
Besides opposing teams not giving him much to hit, Brentz suffered a physical setback in Portland's recent home series against Reading when he bruised his heel crossing home plate, forcing him to miss four straight games.
"I was coming into home plate and the catcher got out the way to get the ball," he said. "I didn't have to slide, but I kind of had to duck around him, and when I hit home plate my foot hit real hard and it kind of rolled. I felt it instantly; it felt like someone hit it with a sledgehammer."
Coming back from his four-game absence, Brentz is still favoring his heel — it's still getting treatment and he appears to not be full strength on the base paths — but he's starting to see some pitches he can hit and not missing opportunities to drive them.
In his first game back from his injury Brentz went 1-4 with a single at home against Trenton, and singled and doubled the next day at New Britain.
After going 0-3 on Saturday and having Sunday off, the 23-year-old showed some traces of the raw power the Red Sox brought him into the organization for. He turned in a 2-for-4 performance as Portland's designated hitter in an 8-1 win over New Hampshire Monday, a performance that included his second home run of 2012.
In his first at-bat he hit a low, sharp line drive up the middle off New Hampshire starter Randy Boone, and jumped all over the first pitch of his third at-bat to take Boone deep over the Maine Monster for a 2-run home run.
But along with the high points on Monday, areas of improvements were visible as well. Brentz chopped a groundball to third on the first pitch of his second at-bat and struck out looking on a low fastball in his fourth. Brentz is aware plate discipline is something he needs to improve on, and he is dedicated to coming to the ballpark every day to work on it.
"Getting a heavy dose of offspeed stuff is keeping me honest at the plate, but I still can't go fishing for these balls early in the count because I'm trying to work it back to a fastball count, and hopefully get one," he said. "It's going good, though, and we're still focusing on the same stuff, you know; staying away from the offspeed and looking for my pitch."
Portland hitting coach Dave Joppie mentioned earlier in the season that Double-A is a key level for a player to really get to know his swing and learn how to, "make adjustments on the fly," — something that Bryce is learning to do more.
"We're staying with the plan, as far as pretty much giving up the inside pitch. I can probably count on one hand how many times I've gotten a pitch inside, so we're just looking for pitches away," Brentz said.
"You know, if they want to throw offspeed it's fine, but basically I just need to not help the pitcher out, and keep the approach that I'm just going to swing at strikes. If they hang a curveball, hey, you make them pay, but until then, let's just take it and work the count. The fact is, they're not giving me much, and I can't go out there and swing at bad stuff."
Brentz — who is now hitting .243 with ten RBIs in 28 games — was positive and upbeat talking about his hitting and plate appearances in the clubhouse before Monday's game, and feels confident things are coming around in his approach.
If this is the case, we might quite possibly see some of the numbers he put up last year in Greenville and Salem, as evidenced by hitting a home run in his second straight game on Wednesday.
"He's managing his at-bats a little better, and we're just trying to get him healthy at this point," Portland Manager Kevin Boles said. "We love his offensive potential. He's trying to get his feet underneath him and he's taking a real good approach to the plate."
"I've been happy with my at-bats. [I] had a day off yesterday and the day before hit two bullets right at somebody and couldn't really do much about it," Brentz said.
"It's coming around. I'm not getting many pitches to hit, but I'm just remembering that it's going to be tough. I'm gonna have to keep battling."