Encarnacion continues to impress
Edwin Encarnacion has always been known as a streaky hitter but for the first time in his career the Dominican native is enjoying a prolonged period of success. The numbers this year are impressive but they get even better when you go all the way back to last season’s All-Star Break. Since that time, Encarnacion is batting .294 (94-for-320) with an OBP of .370 to go along with 17 homers, 55 RBIs and 25 doubles.
Since that time, he’s been the clubs best hitter. Need more evidence? Compare those numbers to what Jose Bautista has done since last year’s All-Star Break. The face of Toronto’s franchise is hitting .239 with 15 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .396 on-base percentage over that same period of time. Last year on this exact date, Encarnacion was hitting just .269 with zero home runs and eight extra-base hits. This season, he’s batting .302 with six homers, 19 RBIs and eight doubles.
It is a remarkable turnaround for a player that partway through last season didn’t even know if he would be with the Blue Jays in 2012. Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos liked enough of what he saw from Encarnacion in the second half to pick up the designated hitters $3.5 million option for 2012 and as of right now that’s looking like one of the better bargains in baseball.
Encarnacion believes one of the keys to his recent success has been a revamped swing. In the past, Encarnacion possessed a long swing that took too long to get through the zone and he often had a tendency to try and pull every pitch. This year, he’s driving the ball to centre and right field more consistently and the quicker swing path is obviously enabling him to get to pitches that he would have been unable to hit in the past.
Below, you’ll find what Encarnacion had to say after Toronto’s 7-0 victory over the Mariners. I’ve also included some other leftovers from today’s post-game scrums and on the main site you’ll find the notebook (items on Jose Bautista, Travis Snider’s wrist injury and J.P. Arencibia’s error from Friday night) plus associate reporter Chris Toman has today’s game story on an impressive outing by Brandon Morrow, who didn’t walk a batter for the first time in his career as a starting pitcher.
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Going back to last year’s All-Star Break you’ve had a lot of consistent success at the plate. Is this the most comfortable you’ve felt for a prolonged period of time since being in the Majors?
“Yeah, I feel great from the All-Star Break last year to now. I’ve been working hard in the offseason to have a great season this year. I feel comfortable, I’m going to keep working hard, keep helping my team, keep doing my work.”
What’s been the key to your success?
“I think being consistent. That’s the one thing, concentrate on every pitch, in every inning and every game.”
The new swing must be helping as well…
“That’s No. 1, that’s the key. Working in the offseason to get my swing shorter.
“That’s what happens when you get experience, year after year, you get more experience and I think that has made me feel a lot better at the plate.”
Is that what you felt the previous problem was? Your swing was too long?
“That’s what I think. The guy I worked with in the offseason told me that too, that I had my swing too long. On the outside corner I was pulling a lot so now I try more to the middle and get my swing shorter with two hands, swinging with two hands.”
“When you get in a rut like that you need something to spark you. Also, I hadn’t pitched well at home this year and didn’t pitch well at home last year, I needed to get it going here at the Rogers Centre, too.”
On mix between breaking balls and fastball/slider…
“It was mainly fastball/slider but in those games where I don’t have my good fastball or my good slider I think the focus in spring training on those other off-speed pitches is really going to help me out. Like last time in Kansas City, I relied a lot on my changeup.”
On confidence with breaking stuff…
“I think once you see the guys two or three times through, especially when they get some guys on, to be able to slow them down a little bit that’s when I started using my changeup more. Seager singled on one but I ended up striking out Smoak on a couple of changeups.”
On change in approach because of stuff…
“I went out with the same game plan that we had before, just today I had my good stuff so we went with what was working. If I was missing location with some fastballs, or if I didn’t have as good of a slider as I did, we probably would have went with some more changeups and some curveballs.”
Focus more on strikeouts today?
“We’re going to with our strengths on that day. Today, obviously, it was the strikeout, in Kansas City it was the ground ball, and really mixing it up and changing speeds.
“He has this capability everytime he steps to the mound. When you combine a well-above average fastball with the command that he showed today in addition to three other offspeed pitches, he has the ability to not only take over the game, but dominate the opposition. When the strikeouts come, the pitch count might run up a little bit and that was the case today, but we will take six-shutout innings every time he takes the mound.”
“I thought Brandon came out and set the tone for us today, he was powerful and threw a lot of strikes. He made a number of big pitches to get a strikeout with men in scoring position and less than two outs and kept the game under control and in-check.”
On dropped fly ball…
“I was there, (Johnson’s) got priority, he called it so I tried to get out of the way and didn’t get out of the way, he tripped, then I saw him stumble and I was like, ‘Oh God.’ Then he caught himself and I thought he was going to catch it and then I looked back and it popped out, just one of those freak things where he tripped over my leg.
“He’s carried this offence pretty much the whole month.