Seitzer working to get Braves’ Inciarte going

 SAN DIEGO – Being a hitting coach for the worst offensive team in baseball can be a thankless job, and a very busy one. Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and assistant Juan Castro have their hands full with this rebuilding team, and any small progress must feel like a moral victory these days.

Being a hitting coach for the worst offensive team in the majors can't be easy. Seeing progress like Kevin Seitzer saw from Ender Inciarte hours after their one-on-one session Monday afternoon provides at least a brief bit of satisfaction. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

Being a hitting coach for the worst offensive team in the majors can’t be easy. Seeing progress like Kevin Seitzer saw from Ender Inciarte hours after their one-on-one session Monday afternoon provides at least a brief bit of satisfaction. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

Take Monday, for instance, when Ender Inciarte went 2-for-4 with a double and a walk in a 7-2 loss to the Padres, the Braves’ fifth consecutive defeat. Inciarte pulled a hamstring in the third game of the season, missed five weeks, and has struggled to find his groove since returning from the DL.

In his past 15 games before Monday, he hit .175 (10-for-57) with three extra-base hits, one RBI, a .266 OBP and a .246 slugging percentage, with just one multi-hit game in that stretch.

The guy who hit .303 with a .747 OPS in 524 at-bats for the Diamondbacks in 2015, was batting .202 with a .525 OPS in 114 at-bats for the Braves before Monday, when Inciarte spent a half-hour talking with Seitzer between batting-practice sessions about an issue that Seitzer believed was holding him back.

“He came out and hit early,” said Seitzer, barely able to contain his energy as he described what he’d told Inciarte and how he was going to the batting cage again now to keep working with him. “And we were just talking in here and I think we (figured out) he’s got a mechanical thing, something that he’s been fighting, but it’s not really mechanical-related as much as it’s just being ready to hit. He’s more reacting to strikes instead of being ready to hit every pitch out of the hand. He’s reacting to strikes, and he’s so frustrated because he’s getting good fastballs to hit, he says he’s never fouled off so many pitches. And ends up flying out, and he’s never hit so many fly balls.”

Seitzer talks like this, fast and detailed, sometimes repeating himself in an effort to make it perfectly clear what he’s talking about.

“We literally just spent 30 minutes in here talking about it,” he continued. “I think that’s what we’ve got it narrowed down to is, he’s reacting to a good pitch, reacting to a fastball, and he can’t do that, there’s not enough time to do that. And (Tyler) Flowers the same thing. I said, how many times  have you guys been fooled this year? I go, you guys hardly ever get fooled. That’s a bad thing.”

Seitzer explained what he meant by that seemingly counterintuitive statement.

“You’ve got to get fooled if you’re going to be on time for a heater (fastball),” he said. “You’re going to chase pitches that look like fastballs down the middle out of the hand and end up being sliders. I said, you haven’t been fooled all year. That’s a bad sign. You need to be on time, and sometimes you’ll chase (pitches). Two strikes, now we’ll go into a little more defensive mode, like you’re hitting all the time (so far this year).”

Ender Inciarte is hitting about 100 points lower in his first season with the Braves than he did last season with the Diamondbacks. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

Ender Inciarte is hitting about 100 points lower in his first season with the Braves than he did last season with the Diamondbacks. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

Indeed, Inciarte struck out just four times during his 15-game slump before Monday’s two-hit game. Not that strikeouts are good, but neither is trying to prevent strikeouts by being in the “defensive mode” all the time as Seitzer described.

“Anyway, hopefully we’ll get this sucker hot,” Seitzer said. “We need him. We need to get rolling.”

A couple of hours later, Inciarte led off the first inning with a walk, and ended up scoring on a Jeff Francoeur ground-out for a short-lived 1-0 Braves lead. He also had one of the Braves’ three singles in the seventh inning when they scored their other run, and doubled with two out in the ninth inning.

The Braves have two more games in San Diego Tuesday and Wednesday, and it’s a good place for Inciarte to try to get himself back on track: He has a .303 career average (36-for-119) with 15 extra-base hits (two triples, two homers), nine stolen bases in 32 games against the Padres, including 11-for-25 (.440) with four extra-base hits (two homers) during a six-game hitting streak against them through Monday.

Prior to this series, Inciarte’s last game against the Padres was Sept. 27, 2015, when he was with Arizon. He had four hits including two home runs in that game.

That was also the third win for Arizona in their last four games at Petco Park in 2015. The Braves, on the other hand, lost for the 11th consecutive time at Petco on Monday, a winless streak that stretches to late August 2012.

That 11-game losing streak is tied for secong-longest active streak by any team at any road ballpark, behind only the Braves’ 14-game losing streak at Nationals Park.

• Since he spent much of his childhood in San Diego, let’s close with another West Coast-themed tune, this one, from the mighty Tom Waits.

“GOINT OUT WEST” by Tom Waits
Tom Waits

Tom Waits

Well I’m goin’ out west
Where the wind blows tall
‘Cause Tony Franciosa
Used to date my ma
They got some money out there
They’re giving it away
I’m gonna do what I want
Do what I want
And I’m gonna get paid

Little brown sausages
Lying in the sand
I ain’t no extra baby
I’m a leading man
Well my parole officer
Will be proud of me
With my Olds 88
And the devil on a leash
My Olds 88
And the devil on a leash

Well I know karate, Voodoo too
I’m gonna make myself available to you
I don’t need no make up
I got real scars
I got hair on my chest
I look good without a shirt

Well I don’t lose my composure
In a high speed chase
Well my friends think I’m ugly
I got a masculine face
I got some dragstrip courage
I can really drive a bed
I’m gonna change my name
To Hannibal or maybe
Just Rex
Change my name to Hannibal
Or maybe just Rex

I’m gonna drive all night
Take some speed
I’m gonna wait for the sun
To shine down on me
I cut a hole in my roof
In the shape of a heart

And I’m goin’ out west
Where they’ll appreciate me
Goin’ out west
Goin’ out west

 


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