MacArthur: Jays' hitters "mad", Seitzer wants them to relax

Scott MacArthur
6/13/2014 9:13:21 PM
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BALTIMORE – Kevin Seitzer does not have a doctorate in psychology and the Blue Jays' recent offensive slump has him wishing he did.

"Now would be a good time to have one," Seitzer joked to before Friday night's game against the Orioles.

It's been a tough week. Entering Friday's action, the Blue Jays had lost five of their last six games, scoring a total of eight runs in that span. Baseball's leader with 91 home runs as a team, Toronto didn't hit any in the five defeats. The frustration is mounting, not that Seitzer needed anyone to point it out.

"It's mental, emotional stuff," said Seitzer. "We were having so much fun and playing so well that when you hit a little bump in the road nobody likes it. When you don't like it you get mad and when you get mad after an at-bat and you go up for your next at-bat and it doesn't work out the way you want then you get more mad."

Now is the time Seitzer gets away from swing-tweaking and mechanical suggestions. He becomes more a mental coach, inviting his group to take a seat on the proverbial couch.

"I said, 'I want you guys to stay aggressive. I want you to compete your butt off on every at-bat but keep the emotions out of it,'" said Seitzer. "We've got to keep the emotions in check. Understand that umpires are going to make bad calls you don't like, pitchers are going to hit spots that they're not used to hitting consistently, we're going to go through a little phase where we get painted up a little bit with guys who aren't used to doing that."

He's talking about a guy like Minnesota's Kevin Correia, who entered Tuesday night's start with an ERA above six but shut the Jays' offence down over six innings.

He's talking about a guy like Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals, who baffled Toronto over seven innings last Sunday. Garcia has a pedigree but is only recently returned from a year-long layoff following complicated shoulder surgery.

Young Orioles fireballer Kevin Gausman held Toronto to a run over six innings on Thursday but Seitzer felt his offence had its best outing in a week. Gausman's fastball tops out at 98 miles per hour; he has a nasty splitter and a tough slider and he's learned a changeup, an effective weapon to keep hitters off balance. Seitzer liked, despite Gausman's relative dominance, his pitch count hitting 100 in the sixth inning, which forced him from the game.

There's also been some griping about recent umpires' strike zones. Players have done a good job of not embarrassing the men in blue, quietly voicing displeasure without causing a scene. Seitzer had a way of handling such situations when he played.

"Don't show them up, don't show body language, don't get them all mad but you have to let them know that you know that pitch was outside," said Seitzer.

If Seitzer felt a called strike was a few inches off the plate, he'd murmur as much to the umpire. A third baseman and first baseman in his playing days, Seitzer often would speak to the same umpire the next day and would receive admissions of missed calls. He said the conversations often helped to develop friendships with the umpires.

One thing he doesn't want his pupils doing: going out of the strike zone because the umpire has a wide one.

"The thing I'm telling the guys is you can't change your zone," said Seitzer. "You don't want to expand because once you start expanding a little bit then you'll expand more. You don't even want to deal with those pitches until two strikes when you're battling and protecting but I don't want you protecting four inches off the plate even with two strikes because, number one, you probably will miss it and number two, if you do put it in play you're going to be out because it'll be softly hit."

Seitzer's ability to relate to hitters is, in part, a result of the experiences he had during his own career.

In 1993, following his release by Oakland, Seitzer returned for a second stint with the Milwaukee Brewers. He made a decision. As an experiment, he would no longer allow himself to be affected by negative thoughts. If he went 0-for-5 in a game, he'd arrive at the park the next day repeating to himself 'You're hot, you're hot' until he was convinced the previous night's donut was an aberration. There were times when his hitting coach thought he was crazy.

Seitzer said he never went into a prolonged slump in either 1994 or 1995 and in those two seasons he posted OPS's of .828 and .815. Reflecting, Seitzer said his mental experiment laid the groundwork for his future career in coaching although he didn't know it at the time.

He'd like Jays hitters to apply his theory.

"We have to let that transition again back to the good," said Seitzer. "I said don't fight, don't force, don't try and do too much and don't get mad about it and just keep competing; compete each at-bat."

Despite the recent team-wide slump, Toronto continues to lead baseball with 91 home runs (Colorado is second with 84) and is second in OPS (.769).

Blips happen. The statistics suggest the Blue Jays will come around. A tough week doesn't negate a strong two-month stretch.

"I'll admit I was extremely spoiled rotten watching this offence go night after night," said Seitzer. "Hopefully we can get this sucker turned around quick."

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