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.