Lower hands bring higher average for Wieters

The Orioles are supposed to begin a two-game series against the Pirates tonight at Camden Yards. If only the weather would cooperate.

Rain could wash away both games. The two teams are off Thursday and might be forced to play a doubleheader.

Stay tuned.

Manny Machado didn’t play at Single-A Frederick last night, with rain causing a postponement. He’s still 8-for-12 on his rehab assignment.

As I’ve written, the Orioles could activate Machado tonight to fill the roster spot vacated by first baseman Chris Davis, or they could recall left-hander T.J. McFarland for one day and replace him with left-hander Troy Patton on Wednesday. They also could sign outfielder Steve Pearce, whose unconditional release waivers expire today.

No move will be necessary tonight if the Orioles don’t play.

No matter what happens, catcher Matt Wieters woke up this morning with a slash line of .338/.370/.554 with four doubles, four home runs and 15 RBIs. He’s hitting .368/.413/.526 from the left side, his weakest before this season.

Wieters concentrated over the winter on finding a solution to his uneven splits and studied video with hitting coach Jim Presley before they came up with a few simple adjustments.

“He lowered his hands,” Presley said. “He was standing more erect. He’s lowered his hands where he can load up and keep his hands there and he doesn’t drift. That’s the main thing. So now he’s loading up and staying there. He’s not drifting as bad as he was the past couple of years.”

Wieters made this adjustment only from the left side. He’s a career .280/.341/.491 hitter from the right side, compared to .248/.313/.397 from the left.

wieters swing white sidebar.jpg“Right-handed, he’s solid,” Presley. said. “He’s so much better right-handed. He’s not right now, but he’s just naturally right-handed, so it’s easier for him.”

Last season, Wieters batted .214/.270/.358 against right-handers and .282/.326/.546 against lefties. In 2012, he batted .224/.303/.412 against right-handers and .323/.404/.504 against lefties. In 2011, he hit .237/.293/.372 against right-handers and .339/.430/.694 against lefties. But in 2010, he hit .263/.347/.394 against right-handers and .210/.236/.328 against lefties. And in 2009, he batted .313/.357/.447 against right-handers and .248/.313/.358 against lefties.

“Right-handed, it’s just more natural to him,” Presley said. “That’s what he’s done and he’s naturally right-handed. He’s got to work on his left-handed swing more than he does his right, but he gets more left-handed at-bats. But that’s what he’s done. He’s lowered his hands, kind of spread out a little bit. And when he loads up, he stays back and doesn’t drift forward.

“It was always a problem with him drifting a little bit, getting out front, so he worked on it this winter. Guys will start trying different things and see what feels good, and that felt good to him.”

There was no consideration given to batting exclusively from the right side and abandoning switch-hitting.

“No, because he’s still pretty good from the left side,” Presley said. “It’s just easier. Right on right, hitting that slider down and away is pretty tough. And he’s facing primarily a bunch of right-handed guys, so why would you switch?”

It wouldn’t make any sense this year.

“The swing feels good, but I always think, no matter how good your swing is, if the approach isn’t there, you’re going to have a tough time getting hits,” Wieters said. “Right now, just trying to stay with wherever the pitch is and don’t try to do too much. I know it’s a cliche, but it really is the way to hit, to just try to hit a ball where it’s pitched. Every pitch that’s a strike, there’s someplace where you can hit it and get a hit. It’s just a matter of not trying to do something else with it.”

A good example occurred in Toronto, where Wieters, batting left-handed, reached for a ball off the plate and looped it over the shortstop’s head for an opposite-field single. The bat flew out of his hands.

“Ultimately, I don’t really want to throw the bat at a ball, but it worked out that time,” Wieters said, smiling. “The main thing is being able to stay through the ball and really not trying, before the pitch is thrown, think about where I should be hitting it. Just sort of react to it, and if it’s away, take your hit that way.

“There are a lot of hits the other way and a lot of us get stuck in our own mind, where we think we have to pull or we think we have to hit for power as opposed to just taking a hit when it’s given to you.”

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