Red Sox

Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Beyond his poor conditioning, below-average defense and his inability to drive the ball (.388 slugging percentage), Pablo Sandoval had yet another problem last year: he couldn't hit right-handed.

At all.

And that's not an exaggeration. Sandoval was 2-for-41 from the right side of the plate through late May when he finally gave up on the idea of switch-hitting and hit exclusively left-handed, even against lefty pitching.

(Ironically, Sandoval was far better against lefties hitting left-handed than he was from the right side, batting .255).

This spring, however, Sandoval is dedicated to becoming a full-time switch-hitter. Sandoval said he worked on his right-handed swing almost exclusively this winter, finding a shorter, more compact stroke to make him quicker to the ball.

But as he recounted his nightmarish 2015 season Sunday morning, he attributed most of his problems from the right side to confidence -- or lack thereof.

“I lost my confidence,'' said Sandoval. "If you don't have that, if you don't feel confident at home plate, from the right side, then you're not going to trust your swing. You're going to put a lot of pressure on (yourself). That's what I did. It was hard. You start thinking, 'What am I going to do? What's the next step?' So that's what I worked on this off-season, trying to shake it off and get my confidence back.     

"I feel great. I've been working hard to be a good right-handed hitter.''

Of course, confidence often comes from realizing results and to succeed, Sandoval needs a better approach at the plate.

 

Toward that end, hitting coach Chili Davis began working with Sandoval in the batting cage Sunday morning, and later watched Sandoval take batting practice.

"His cage work looked really nice,'' said Davis. "He was very balanced, his hands were working. Last year, when he got here, it was more shoulders (from the right side). His swing was big - the big muscles and out of control. I wanted to see if I saw the same swing during BP as I did in the cage, and he looked just as good (in BP) as he did in the cage.

"There's a progression I want to follow with him. When the games start, I want to see him stay as calm and relaxed as he looks now.''

Davis, who was a switch-hitter himself during his major league career, noticed Sandoval struggling to maintain his right-handed swing in spring training last season.

“It was confidence,'' agreed Davis. "He never felt comfortable from the right side and as the season progressed, he pressed and pressed and pressed until he said, 'Forget it -- I'm just going to stay left-handed.' And to his credit, I was very impressed how he handled left-handed pitching from the left side. That's not easy to do. He hung in there and did as best he could and to the point where it probably crossed a few of our minds, 'Why don't you just hit lefty (exclusively)?'

"But he's a switch-hitter. He wants to switch-hit and he's worked hard at it this winter. What I see, the big difference in Pablo today compared to last year, his hands are working well. His hands are working like they should work. He's much more fluid and he's not trying to do too much with the baseball.''