Gunnar Henderson, off to a .148 batting start in his first eight games of this season, has been making some small adjustments in his batting stance that he feels soon could produce the solid results he and the team expect from him.
In his 34 games after his call-up last year he batted .259 with a .788 OPS, producing an OPS+ of 123. Those numbers made him among the favorites and maybe the favorite to win the 2023 American League Rookie of the Year Award.
“I feel like it’s still early for me because I was a little bit behind in spring (dealing with a minor wrist issue early in camp), not getting all the live at-bats I needed,” he said today. “I’m taking my walks and having really good pitch selection right now. Just some of them haven’t gone my way. Been working on some body posture in the cage. Past few games had some really good swings on the ball, reminding me of past swings I’ve had. Feeling the way I am right now, I feel it will come around.”
Henderson is 4-for-27 but has drawn a team-leading eight walks to go along with 14 strikeouts. He has one double, one homer and two RBIs. Only four players in the entire AL have drawn more than eight walks.
Believe it or not, Henderson is now drawing on the experience of another slow start, this one when he was promoted from Single-A Delmarva to High-A Aberdeen in June 2021. Back then he was just 1-for-31 (.032) in his first 11 games after moving up to Aberdeen. What he learned then: Don’t panic over that start and don’t try to constantly make changes to get his bat going.
“Yes, because you catch yourself wanting to change something every day," he said. "But you have to stick with it and know, like I have said before after the Aberdeen experience, changing things will just put you in a deeper hole.”
So now he is not making changes but is making a small adjustment. He feels at times he has been drifting a bit forward in his batting stance, and that that has robbed him at times of his usual power.
“I’m having some good at-bats, some balls have not fallen in, plus we are facing really good pitching,” he said.
He said some of his teammates have been encouraging him too.
“They can see at times you get caught up in the results and get frustrated," Henderson said. "I can get caught up in that to this day. So take it from the process aspect of it, try to be growth-minded. Sometimes you can do everything right and someone still catches the ball.”
As for the body posture he mentioned, that is related to the movement and drifting in his batting stance.
“I was kind of losing my back side a little bit and not driving the ball with the power I normally do," he said. "I was giving up my strong back leg, in a sense. Just trying to do too much. Need to let my body work into it. That was a habit that developed, and now I need to get back to my normal self. And I feel like the work I put in the last week has really helped me.”
And Henderson sees drawing a lot of walks as a good sign.
“Yes, taking the pitches I need to and then, in losing my back side, I was fouling some pitches I should be hitting," he said. "So feel like I’m taking the pitches I need. So whenever my swing feels good, the ones I am fouling off right now I will be hitting pretty hard.”