Syracuse Chiefs and former University of Maryland center fielder Justin Maxwell has been on a tear hitting the ball well at the Triple-A level. Last week, during a 7-game span, Maxwell went 8 for 27 (.296) with two doubles, two homers, three RBI and five runs scored. With 53 hits, he is averaging a hit per game for Syracuse.
He is batting .282 with 5 homers and 16 RBI in 53 minor league games this season and is benefiting from playing every day in center field.
I asked Maxwell if he had changed anything mechanically at the plate?
"You know, not really. I talked with (hitting coach) Jerry Browne and (minor-league outfield coordinator) Devon White like a month ago and they told me, 'you have to figure it out for yourself.' That really stuck with me. I had heard that before. This year I think is different from other seasons.
I used to search for everyone's advice when I was younger. I would try to see what different coaches had for me, rather than thinking this is my swing and this is what I have to do. I think I found that now."
This helps to make him a better hitter because he can figure out what is not working and correct it before it becomes a problem.
"It has been kind of refreshing because I can help myself and make an adjustment on my own instead of having to run to the cage and hit for two hours trying different things every day.
"That is what I used to do last season. Now that I have found out about myself I have been able to make adjustments on my own. That has been pretty awesome."
Maxwell has also worked on not trying to do too much in the outfield.
"I have to just remind myself that you have to keep the double play in order. Before, I would just fire the ball in and then I would get back to the dugout and coaches would be like 'hey, we are up a couple of runs, you got to keep the double play in order.' I used to do that a lot when I was younger. Now, I just hit the cut off man and my job is done, rather than try to fire it all the way into the base."
Justin says the Syracuse pitching staff has been the key to the Chiefs hovering around first place the entire season.
"(Josh) Wilkie has been doing really awesome. He has been working on his cutter and he has a really good changeup. He kind of took over as our closer when Joel Peralta got called up and has done well.
We have a couple tough lefthanders like Victor Garate and Atahualpa Severino who have been throwing the ball really well, like 91 to 93 MPH coming out of the pen, nobody likes to face funky lefthanders. They both have been throwing the ball pretty well."
Maxwell says the International League opposing pitching talent has improved, which helps make the entire team better hitters because they learn from facing tougher pitchers.
"There are a bunch of guys we have faced and seen on television already. We were very impressed with Louisville Bats (Reds) lefthander Travis Wood and sure enough we saw him in the big leagues just last week. There are a lot of good arms in the league and its fun to see those guys get called up."