Spring Training numbers aren’t usually taken very seriously to begin with, let alone three at-bats in a player’s first spring outing.
But for a newcomer like Josh Hamilton, going hitless in his first three at bats with the Los Angeles Angels in his Cactus League debut was not the first impression that the team’s new $125 million man wanted to make.
Considering that the biggest splash he’s made in LA has been the fact that a juicing diet helped him lose some 20-30 pounds going into camp, you could say that Hamilton probably wanted to top that with something on-field worth talking about.
Adjustments needed to be made, and in his second game with the team, Hamilton made them.
In the lineup as the Angels’ starting DH, Hamilton wasted no time making his presence felt against the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking a 3-2 pitch from their big international acquisition Hyun-Jin Ryu to right center field for a two-run home run that scored Mike Trout.
He followed that with a single off former Angels pitcher Matt Palmer to spark what was wound up being a seven-run third inning for the Angels, and a very bad afternoon for the righty and the Dodgers defense, as all seven runs were unearned as a result of a pair of errors. If Hamilton hadn’t been pinch-run for then, he would have gotten a second that inning.
On a sample size matter, that the Angels’ slugger bounced back with a 2-for-2 outing today doesn’t say very much on the big picture of his season. However, when you look at his day closely, elements about what made his outing successful start to emerge.
Of particular note was the at bat he took against Ryu. In Hamilton’s first game, he only saw one pitch in his first at-bat before grounding out. This time, he found himself in a 0-2 hole, brought himself all the way back to 2-2, then holding off on a fastball down and away that Texas Rangers fans watched him flail at repeatedly in the second half of 2012, before taking the Dodgers righty deep on a full count.
It’s early, and it’s a rather small detail, but patience was something that Hamilton wanted and needed to work on after striking out 29.3 percent of the time in the second half last season. He was able to do that effectively against Ryu, and that allowed an opportunity for his best tool – power – to do its work.
Sure, the numbers are going to be irrelevant when Opening Day comes around, but Spring Training is all about working on the little things.
On Friday, Hamilton showed that he ‘d been doing just that, and it yielded big results.