Iannetta maintaining spirit of September
Catcher's late-season success has carried over to spring
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It's not often a .417 batting average can slip under the radar, but that's what happened with Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta last September.
By then, Yorvit Torrealba had taken over the catching job and the Rockies were playoff bound, so Iannetta's previous struggles with his batting average went largely ignored. But the little tips manager Jim Tracy was giving Iannetta had begun to take hold.
This spring, Iannetta has maintained the spirit of September. Iannetta is hitting .385 (10-for-26), with a .500 on-base percentage, three doubles, a triple and eight RBIs. Iannetta did not play in Monday's 9-1 victory over the Reds at Goodyear, Ariz.
With the Rockies having committed a three-year, $8.3 million contract to Iannetta, they're ready to see if the hitting stroke continues when the regular season starts. Iannetta will be sharing time with Miguel Olivo, who signed a one-year deal as a free agent. As long as Iannetta keeps swinging well, he'll have a chance to make a greater impact than last season.
"I just changed the stance and setup a lot, but that was something that I did for the last five weeks of the season, so that's not that big of a change," Iannetta said. "I'm more relaxed, more comfortable in the box. It's an opportunity to learn and get better, and try to implement the things I've worked on and learned from other people and coaches and worked that into a game setting."
There was nothing wrong with Iannetta's swing. It was as direct and forceful a swing as a .228 hitter can manage. He finished with 16 home runs, 15 doubles, two triples and 65 RBIs. Power comes from his wide-shouldered build.
The hitting eye was keen enough. He managed a .344 on-base percentage.
But the pitches he fouled off or didn't hit solidly killed the average.
Tracy said credit for revamping the stance goes to hitting coach Don Baylor and first-base coach Glenallen Hill. But Tracy worked on the overall approach and thought process.
2010 Spring Training - Colorado Rockies
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"I told him to get behind the ball, slow down, and in his case, not landing so hard," Tracy said. "He was landing real hard and everything was bouncing around. Be quiet going into the ball, especially with two strikes.
"If you're not thinking dead pull, you can let the ball travel and still hit it the other way. His hands are fast enough to do that. It goes without saying -- he has tremendous power to right-center field. So why would you be in a big hurry?"
Iannetta has been branded as a player whose intensity works against him. Tracy continued his advice and support of Iannetta throughout the offseason, but made the standard clear.
"You have to have a lot of conversation. He has to understand the environment," Tracy said. "Just like I've said with [third baseman] Ian Stewart, we have at-bats for you, we have playing time for you. But it's always a two-way street."
Iannetta is not acting as if he's under the gun to prove he deserves to be on the field.
"Whoever they see is the right guy at the right time will play," Iannetta said. "However that plays out, at-bats or games, that's out of my hands and out of Miguel's hands."
Iannetta's only task is to extract the most from his strong hands.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.