HOUSTON – The hitting coach and the player sat at the player's locker stall for more than 20 minutes before Saturday's game against the Astros. They were hashing some things out. What those things are will remain between the coach and the player.
What's clear was that the discussion Kevin Seitzer was having with Colby Rasmus was animated. Seitzer, leaving not much room between him and his protégé, was moving his hands theatrically, speaking intently. To the casual observer, looking over every now and then, it appeared that Seitzer was doing a lot more of the talking than Rasmus.
This has been a difficult year for Rasmus and it couldn't have come at a worse time. He's assuredly headed to free agency for the first time in his career, the Blue Jays uninterested in bringing him back – certainly uninterested in issuing Rasmus a qualifying offer worth more than $14-million – and the feeling, it's believed, is mutual.
Making $7-million this season, 28-year-old Rasmus has put himself in a difficult spot as he seeks a long-term, big money contract to take him through his prime years.
He was hitting .218/.281/.444 heading into Sunday's action, a season interrupted for five weeks in May and June due to a hamstring injury.
A high strikeout player throughout his career, Rasmus is whiffing in 32.8-percent of his plate appearances, the highest rate of any of his six big league seasons.
There's the issue of Rasmus's tardiness. He missed a hitters' meeting, during which Seitzer takes players through the scouting report on the opponent's pitching staff, on Thursday. Manager John Gibbons scratched Rasmus from the starting lineup although Rasmus did enter that night's game as a defensive replacement in the seventh.
Where Rasmus and Seitzer disagree most is on Rasmus's stance. Rasmus, you'll notice, holds his hands and bat out over the plate as he settles into the box to await the pitch. Seitzer had earlier convinced Rasmus to pull his hands in toward his body in order to get the bat through the strike zone quicker.
Rasmus, who spent the All-Star Break at home, doesn't see it that way. When he pulls his hands in, he subconsciously wants to move them back out.
“I feel like that I'm able to close my body off that way and it keeps my hands more freed up,” said Rasmus. “Since I've done that off the break, I've hit quite a few balls the other way. I've hit some balls through the shift and the idea was to just keep my body good and closed and my hands further away from me.”
It would be unfair to describe the Rasmus/Seitzer relationship as contentious. Earlier this season, Seitzer told TSN.ca he believes Rasmus has a “beautiful heart,” something of which he reminds Rasmus. He knows his pupil is sensitive. Seitzer knows Rasmus has a complicated background which has left him tormented by his chosen profession.
Seitzer is willing to hear Rasmus out. It's the part of Seitzer's job you'd title “psychologist.”
When it comes to hitting, however, the two are not on the same page.
“I feel more comfortable with them out away from me because I can kind of get a feel of letting my hands be free and loose,” said Rasmus. “I feel like it's been working for me. It's pretty good. The last game in Boston, I hit three balls the other way that got caught. [Xander] Bogaerts dives and catches one; Jonny Gomes barely catches one and does his little tumble roll and then I hit another one to the gap and Jackie Bradley tracked it down.”
There's no question Rasmus has been robbed of a number of hits this season due to the exaggerated defensive shifts he faces. Teams routinely put three infielders on the right side of the diamond when he's at the plate, including placing the second baseman in a roving position in shallow right field.
“I needed to make a change because what I was doing wasn't working,” said Rasmus. “I was just pulling balls straight into the shift. My hands were getting out away from me. I wasn't able to stay inside of any balls. I wasn't letting anything get deep and I was just crushing balls or trying to swing too hard to hit it through the shift because I was uncomfortable with what I was doing.”
So it is in this strange time in the Blue Jays/Rasmus partnership. The playoff-contending team looking for contributions, Rasmus, facing an uncertain future, is playing it like Frank Sinatra: “My Way.”
“I feel fine with what I'm trying to do. I feel good with my approach,” said Rasmus.