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February 15, 2012 at 9:31 AM

Michael Saunders hopes revamped batting approach finally does trick for him

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Just finished watching outfield hopefuls Michael Saunders (photo above), Trayvon Robinson and Carlos Peguero run a drill in which they start out looking over one shoulder as a coach flips them a “fly ball” towards their opposite shoulder that forces them to adjust mid-stride as they run back towards the fence.
But what I’m really looking forward to seeing is Saunders in the batting cage.
He trained this off-season near his new Denver-area home with hitting instructor Mike Bard, the brother of former M’s catcher Josh Bard. Saunders told me that he strapped on rubber training bands around his legs and arms while swinging in the cage. The workout is designed to limit his movement and give him a more tight, compact swing.
Saunders and Bard had previously studied video of elite hitters like Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday to see what they had in common. The tight, compact swings were one of the bigger items.


Another thing Saunders is doing is using a massive, 60-ounce bat when he starts swinging in the outdoor cage. It’s about twice as heavy as the one he’ll use in games.
“It’s too heavy for me to be able to make contact using my arms and wrists,” he said. “So, it really forces me to use my lower half.”
And driving the ball using force generated by his legs and hips is something he’s tried to do for quite some time. After a few turns with the heavy bat, he’ll drop down to his regular-sized one and try to maintain the same form.
Saunders says he feels better than ever heading into camp and is looking forward to putting his new technique to use. He said multiple hitting coaches have tried to tighten up his long swing over the years and have all been striving for the same goal. It’s just now, he said, that he finally feels like he’s gotten it.
As with anything else, we’ll just have to see. It’s one thing to do it in a cage during workouts. A different story when facing major league pitchers.

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