Alfonso Soriano’s age-defying secret: Lighter bats
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com April 19, 2013 11:24PM
Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers
Updated: May 21, 2013 6:32AM
MILWAUKEE — One morning just before the end of spring training, Alfonso Soriano carefully stood his bats on an electronic scale in the Cubs’ clubhouse, one by one, weighing his options.
And calibrating his response to his born-again 2012 season.
“Every year I learn something,” said the power-hitting left fielder, who turned 37 in January. “Last year I was feeling good. This year I’m feeling good. And every year I have more experience, believe more and trust my hands.”
A big part of that starts with the scale.
The seven-time All-Star has swung one of the heaviest bats in the majors most of his career.
But since a year ago this week, Soriano has made sure each of his game bats weigh 32.8 ounces, nearly an ounce less than his career norm.
The new manager, Dale Sveum, told Soriano that pitches were getting too deep on him before he made contact. Swing a lighter bat, Sveum said.
It wasn’t a change he wanted to make, but it might be as big a factor for his late-career resurgence as the newfound health and vigor he has found in his body since then.
“I thought about what he told me, and I thought, four eyes see more than two,” said Soriano, who went on a power-hitting, run-producing tear after the change last season — and who has found a way, despite miserable hitting conditions this month, to put together four multihit performances in his last five games.
That included three more hits, including a double, in four at-bats during Friday’s 5-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers to open a 10-game, three-city road trip.
And the one game in that stretch without at least two hits was Thursday’s victory over the Texas Rangers, when he hit his first homer.
“Last year it took me like six weeks? This year it took me three. But it’s OK,” he said Friday. “I’m not worried. I feel comfortable at home plate.”
As he enters the Crane Kenney years of his eight-year contract — the final two years that the business president personally tacked on to the team’s offer to close the deal — Soriano says his usually balky knee is “surprisingly” ache-free during this cold April.
And, he said, “The bat has worked, feeling good with that weight. … I can use my hands more because the bat’s not that heavy. One ounce in a bat is a big difference.”
And one hitter in the cleanup spot of a lineup, maybe that’s even bigger.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Soriano, the streak-power hitter showing signs of one of his patented streaks coming. “I hope so. … I have to do things to help this team if we want to be good. I think I have a lot of responsibility because I’m the cleanup hitter. But I don’t put that pressure on me; I just want to play my game.”
Last year that meant all 32 of his homers came in the final 20 weeks of the season.
“I saw first-hand what he can do last year,” said leadoff hitter David DeJesus of Soriano’s potential affect on a lineup that has sagged through the first 2½ weeks.
“He’s a premium type run-producer. It’s just a matter of time for him to heat up. It definitely will help the lineup.”