On Thursday, after a 1-for-4 day that actually raised his batting average to .209, Jayson Werth said he would work on “just a few technical changes here and there, and I’ll be all right.” Today at about 2 p.m., in an effort to make those changes and snap his recent slump, Werth joined several Nationals teammates for early batting practice at PNC Park.
“He works hard, there’s no doubt about it,” Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein said. “He doesn’t just hope it shows up. He works at it.”
In his last 29 at-bats, Werth has five hits, none of them for extra bases, and no walks. Werth has just 75 at-bats, a sample size better scoffed at than studied. But still, it’s been a slow offensive start to his Nationals career. He entered today ranked 135th in the majors in on-base percentage (.293), 124th in slugging (.358) and 131st in OPS (.652).
Today, Werth continued trying to find a way to improve those numbers. Werth frequently tweaks his swing through the course of a season, and right now he and Eckstein are working on his comfort in the batter’s box.
“One of the things is his balance,” Eckstein said. “He’s been off balance a little bit. Just getting that feel in the box of getting in his hitting position. He’s captured it in short spurts. He just hasn’t been consistent with it. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish, just the consistency of getting to that position.”
Werth sometimes opens his stance when he’s not feeling comfortable, which he did during spring training. He has not resorted to that during the year, but he has changed the position of his hands, holding them higher than he usually did during recent seasons with the Phillies.
“Once you step in the box, you have a set-up position, with a rhythm to work to get into position so you can see the ball the way you need to see the ball, and then ultimately deliver the swing,” Eckstein said. “That process has been elusive.”
Given his track record, it seems more a matter of when than if Werth sheds his slump. After his work this afternoon, Eckstein wouldn’t be surprised if it happens soon.
“I thought he had a great day today,” Eckstein said. “Hopefully, it continues and he can build off it. He’s feeling really good about what he was doing.”