Hitting work paying off for Renteria

Hitting work paying off for Renteria

CLEVELAND -- Edgar Renteria spent much of this season trying to find his stroke at the plate. In the end, his biggest help might well have been to get away from the plate.

After his batting average fell to .252 a week ago, his lowest point since April 13, Renteria was on a 9-for-20 tear over a five-game hitting streak with four two-hit games and two doubles before going hitless in Monday's series opener against the Indians. It was his best five-game stretch since late April, and it has become a sign of hope for Tigers officials, who are looking for his familiar form down the stretch before his contract option for 2009 becomes an issue.

He looks more like the Renteria of old lately, but it's coming out of something far from the same old routine. Instead of simply taking pregame batting practice, Renteria has focused on hitting soft-toss pitches in the batting cage -- lots of them.

It's helping him track the ball, he said. More importantly, it's helping him focus on hitting the ball hard. It's not that he wasn't trying to do that before, but after his early slump, he got out of that mind-set and focused too much energy into his mechanics.

"Sometimes when you don't get a base hit, you think it's because of the mechanics," Renteria said, "and you end up changing everything, and everything gets in the way. When you change the mechanics, you're down. You have to get the feeling [at the plate] again, and when you have the feeling again, you have to keep doing it every time."

Renteria feels like he has that now, and he's trying to keep his focus simple.

"See the ball, hit it hard," Renteria said, "wherever it goes."

That was evident during the weekend series against the White Sox. Of his five hits over the three games, four were well-hit line drives. He one-hopped the right-field fence with an opposite-field drive off Gavin Floyd on Friday, then after a pair of line-drive singles Saturday, he smacked a double to the depths of center field against Javier Vazquez on Sunday to go along with a bunt single.

He was even happy with some of his outs, including a line drive to second in his first time up on Sunday.

"That's OK," Renteria said. "That's what I want to do: Hit it hard, wherever it goes."

Renteria has always had the reputation of a hard worker who has been quick to embrace extra hitting. He was working so much this year that manager Jim Leyland admittedly wondered if Renteria was actually working too much.

"He says he feels better when he works out," Leyland said.

Plus, when he was working in the cage, hitting coach Lloyd McClendon was working with him on some things he had noticed.

For now, it's paying off.

"Anytime when you work hard and you don't see things go right, there's a little disappointment," Renteria said. "That's all I can do, work hard and try to do the best I can do. If I'm working hard, that's OK. If I'm not working and I'm doing bad, I'm going to feel bad. All I can do is work hard and try to play the game hard."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.