Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Green Works Overtime in a Search for Answers

Baseball: As outfielder continues to try to get things to swing his way, Dodgers hit five homers in 12-6 win over Rockies.

September 18, 2000|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shawn Green reported for work an hour before most of his teammates Sunday. He has a routine and doesn't deviate simply because of a devilishly hot day game in a dwindling, disappointing season.

As the Dodgers slouch through September, Green toils off a batting tee every day and wrestles with one of hitting's conundrums: Adjust or stay the course?

Displeased with his performance, Green vacillates between tinkering with his swing and remaining true to the fundamentals that not only got him to the big leagues but led to a six-year, $84-million contract with the Dodgers.

"My swing is off, no doubt, but I've got to stay with what works and ride it out," he said. "I didn't forget how to hit."

Some of his at-bats lately suggest amnesia. Green is batting .273, but only .240 since May 31. His 24 home runs are fewer than the Dodgers expected from a player who belted 77 the last two years for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Dodgers blasted five home runs in a 12-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, yet Green didn't participate in the trot-a-thon, managing only a first-inning single in four at-bats.

Adding injury to insult, Green was hit in the arm with a pitch by John Wasdin in the sixth inning and was treated for a bruise after the game.

It's a wonder he isn't hit more often. The book on Green is to pitch him inside with hard stuff like the Wasdin fastball he took on the corner for strike three in the fifth inning. A lanky left-handed hitter, he sets up close to home plate and has a long swing, making him susceptible to getting jammed.

Shortening his stroke is the goal of all that tee work. As for where he sets up in the batter's box, well, he's not going to budge.

"My stance isn't any different this year than any other year," he said. "It's not all-of-a-sudden. I went through a period where I was trying to hit home runs because I didn't hit many early in the season. My swing got long and I'm trying to correct that."

Dodger batting instructor Rick Down believes Green's problems are more mental than mechanical.

"If he sets up farther from home plate he'll start diving into pitches and have new problems," Down said. "Every hitter has an area of strength and an area where a pitcher can get him out. The key is hitting the pitch in your area.

"How many times has Shawn Green taken a pitch middle-away that he could have driven? That's the problem."

The Dodgers, of course, have more pressing issues than the nuances of Green's swing. The lack of effective starting pitchers beyond Kevin Brown, Chan Ho Park and Darren Dreifort and a dreadful defense, for starters.

And although he lost a fly ball in the sun that hit his arm and fell for a two-run triple in the seventh inning Sunday, Green's play in right field might be the strength of the defense.

As for his hitting, the Dodgers believe his work ethic will produce results similar to those he attained in Toronto. Green batted .309 last season and .286 in seven seasons.

"Shawn Green is an accomplished major league hitter," Down said. "He'll do well, and he'll do well for a long time."

When Green was traded to the Dodgers last November, his agent, Jeff Moorad, wondered whether his client could go home again without his game suffering because of distractions. Green, 27, grew up in Tustin.

"It's very good to be home, it's not a problem at all," Green said. "There are lots of adjustments, but most of them are on the field, changing teams and leagues. Coming home was the easy part."

Green's father, Ira, operates a baseball academy in Santa Ana and his sister, Lisa, is his financial advisor. He bought a home in Pacific Palisades and immersed himself in the community.

For Green, it has been a season of settling in and finding his place, on and off the field.

He's not going anywhere, not as the sixth-highest-paid player in baseball. He'll continue to toe the inside of the batter's box. He'll continue to have a high profile in the community.

And several hours before each game, he'll be honing that swing.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|