Schmidt in camp to help Philadelphia hitters

Mike Schmidt changed his stance, tinkered with his mechanics and
did whatever he could to improve as a hitter during his Hall of
Fame career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

So he’s the ideal person for the current Phillies to discuss
their batting strategies with, especially since management has
stressed to players they need to alter their approach at the
plate.

Schmidt is in camp for his annual role as a special hitting
instructor, and he’s planning to spend a little more time here this
spring.

”This year might be a little more one-on-one with guys, just
chatting more specifically about in-game hitting strategy,”
Schmidt said. ”There will be times when I chat with guys about
mechanics, but for the most part, the additions I’m going to offer
this year are in-game strategies like, `Let’s be more aggressive in
fastball counts, let’s be tougher to strike out, let’s figure out a
way to give up fewer at-bats.”’

Ever since the Phillies lost Game 5 of the NLDS 1-0 to the St.
Louis Cardinals, the focus has been on the offense. With Roy
Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels anchoring the rotation and
Jonathan Papelbon closing games, the Phillies clearly have enough
pitching to win their sixth straight NL East title.

But the only goal is to win another World Series
championship.

And, the hitters have to do their part.

A once-potent offense that features two former MVPs – Ryan
Howard and Jimmy Rollins – and several All-Stars hasn’t produced
the way it used to when the Phillies started this playoff run.

A few days after the disappointing loss to the Cardinals last
fall, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said hitters have to change
their hitting styles, be more selective, work the count better and
not rely on home runs to score. Manager Charlie Manuel agrees, even
though he’s been trying to hammer this point home to players for
years.

Maybe Schmidt can help.

”A guy like me is only good if there are ears that want to
listen,” he said. ”I never said I’m the end-all when it comes to
that, but I’m a sounding board for guys, and I enjoy it.”

Skeptics wonder if players who’ve had success doing it one way
for several years can suddenly change at a later stage in their
career. Rollins, Howard and Shane Victorino are three of the
players who would benefit most from a new approach. But each seems
set in his ways.

”Can you change a guy’s approach? Yeah, you can get a guy to
think about his role and profession,” Schmidt said. ”You can get
him to think about being great at it and get him to understand it
takes applying your mind more to your craft. You can get a guy to
change the way he goes about his pregame work.

”I changed, and I was very stubborn throughout my career. I was
in my 14th year and made major changes to my approach, both
mentally and physically. I became maybe the best hitter in my
career in my last couple of years. That’s another thing. Guys need
to want to improve. Guys need to not be satisfied with where they
are.”

Notes: RHP Austin Hyatt will start for the Phillies against
Florida State in their annual exhibition game on Wednesday. Hyatt
was 12-6 with a 3.85 ERA in 28 starts at Double-A Reading last
season. … 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley, 3B Placido Polanco and
C Carlos Ruiz will not play against the Seminoles.