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Tenace not surprised by torrid offensive start


Tenace not surprised by torrid offensive start
Baseball REPORTER

When you see hitting coach Gene Tenace, he is invariably holding a bat.

Sometimes, he will swing it in a circle when he walks, like Charlie Chaplin with his cane. On other occasions, he will lean against it while watching batting practice or even use it as a back scratcher.

To Tenace, a bat is a useful tool - a belief he has obviously imparted to the Toronto Blue Jays , whose torrid hitting has contributed to the team's red-hot start this season.

"When I came in here last year, I always felt these guys could hit," Tenace said, bat in hand, before last night's game against the Minnesota Twins. "You look at our lineup and they've done it before - the Rolens, the Overbays, Vernon Wells and Rios. These guys can all hit.

"There's no reason why they shouldn't continue to do so."

Ask Tenace to be a little more specific, to explain how a team that fared so poorly in many offensive categories last year has had such an abrupt turnabout a year later, he only smiles.

"I can't tell you," he said. "It's a secret."

You can't argue with the results.

Heading into last night, the American League East front-runners with a 7-3 record were leading the majors in hitting with a team batting average of .313.

The Jays were also No. 1 in doubles (25) and total bases (194), and were second in runs (68), home runs (17) and slugging (.533). Through 10 games, five Jays were hitting over .300 (minimum 20 at-bats), led by third baseman Scott Rolen, at .389.

The Blue Jays have totalled 10 or more hits in six games and scored in double figures three times.

When pressed, Tenace will say the bats have come around because the players are heading to the plate with an idea of what kind of pitch they want to hit.

The Jays hitters are being encouraged to try to work the count into a favourable hitter's count and when they see a pitch in the strike zone to try to drive it.

Sounds simple, but it wasn't something the Blue Jays did very well last season, when they hit a middling collective .264.

Tenace said the infusion of a couple of young mashers into the everyday lineup - designated hitter Adam Lind and left fielder Travis Snider - has helped the cause.

"They've all got big-league swings," Tenace said. "I also think there's also been a shift in the mindset and these guys have all picked up on it and they're going out there and being aggressive in the strike zone."

Not every player is enjoying a solid offensive start.

Right fielder Alex Rios has been relatively quiet at the plate, hitting .286, without a home run and with only four extra-base hits. Last season, after 10 games, Rios was batting .306 with no homers and four extra-base hits.

"Some guys have a tough time getting out of the gate," Tenace said. "You'd like to see everybody get out of the gate strong but unfortunately it doesn't work that way. But I don't have any concern at all about Alex because I think it's in him and it's going to come out of him."

Manager Cito Gaston said he sees no reason why his team cannot maintain the high offensive standard.

"I think we can," Gaston said. "I know in the last couple of years you guys would have said, 'Well, I don't know about that.' But there's a little different thought about hitting here right now as far as how we're going to be aggressive all the time and go up there and make sure you get the pitch that you want to hit and have a plan when you walk up there."

*****

ON DECK

NOTES The Blue Jays play the Oakland Athletics tonight in the first of a three-game set in Toronto. ... ... David Purcey had 10 strikeouts, but also six walks, in 42/3 innings in his last outing on Sunday in Cleveland. "Obviously, he walked six guys," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "But there are not many guys in the big leagues that can go out in half a game and strike out 10." ... Kelly Gruber, who was the Blue Jays' third baseman during their first run to the World Series in 1992, will be the special guest at the Flashback Friday game.

NEXT Today, Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre, 7:07 p.m. EDT

PROBABLE PITCHERS Jays LHP David Purcey (0-1, 4.63 ERA) v. A's LHP Josh Outman (0-0, 6.23)

TV Sportsnet

Robert MacLeod


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 17, 2009

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