BOSTON When the Red Sox acquired outfielder Ryan Sweeney from the As in December as part of the trade that also brought closer Andrew Bailey to Boston, most observers and evaluators thought the Sox were getting a light-hitting, good-fielding player.
Sweeney -- who entered this season with a career average of .283, a .346 on-base percentage, and .341 slugging percentage -- has spent the early part of this season surprising those folks.
He is batting .361, fourth in the American League, sixth in the majors, with a .345 OBP, and .556 slugging percentage. Most of his plate appearances, 42, have been in the second spot, where he is hitting .308 (.333 OBP, .487 SLG) with seven doubles and three RBI.
Sweeney leads the major leagues with 12 doubles. In 108 games last season he hit just 11 doubles.
Its always good to get off to a good start with a different team, said Sweeney, who also played two seasons for the White Sox, who drafted him in the second round in 2003. Im enjoying it. The guys have made it an easy transfer and Im just having fun.
Sweeney, who turned 27 in February, said he hasnt made any substantial changes at the plate. But getting regular playing time has helped. He averaged just 95 games and 284 at-bats over the last two seasons with the As.
Not really anything different, he said. Just getting consistent playing time and feeling good. I havent really changed anything. I felt good going from spring training into the regular season, so Ive just tried to stay consistent every game and every at-bat, not giving an at-bat away, even if were up by 10 or down by a few runs or whatever it is.
In spring training manager Bobby Valentine said Sweeney didnt really know himself as a hitter. Sweeney began making adjustments this spring to understand himself better at the plate.
Little things in spring training, just kind of like moving my hands a little bit moreand having a fluid stance, he said. But obviously throughout the year you adjust to different things when different things feel good. But right now I havent really had toIm just trying to go up there and see a hit.
He attributes some of the success to having other left-handed hitters David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez around.
Adrian and Big Papi help me a lot, he said. Just to be able to watch them and talk to them about different approaches to different pitchers and just the way they go about their business in the cage and approaches to their swing and different things. Being able to watch them as a left-handed hitter helps me out a lot.
Sweeney is batting .397 against right-handed pitching this season, just .111 against lefties. He has not made a start against a lefty, going 1-for-9 with three strikeouts overall. It just a matter of time, he believes, before all those numbers change.
My first three years in Oakland and all, before that I was always a starter and I always faced lefties and I was always in there against whoever. It didn't really matter, he said. But sometimes in baseball, you do the match-up thing and last year with not playing a whole lot and not getting to face lefties at all really, I think you kind of get put in that category where maybe people think you can't hit lefties anymore. I dont have a problem facing them. Its just that I havent gotten a lot the last couple of years. So when you go up there and you havent faced them for a couple of years you're not really comfortable facing them,. Especially when youve got guys that are pretty good left-handed pitchers or guys coming out of the bullpen. Thats their one job, is to get you out.
There is another column in his stat line hed like to improve. After 21 games he is still without a home run. In Wednesdays starting lineup only Will Middlebrooks, making his big league debut, and Marlon Byrd, who struggled in the National League before a trade and his first game with the Sox on April 23, also had zeros in the home run column.
Obviously Id like to hit for power but my swing is such a line drive swing that I hit line drives all the time, he said. But in BP I can do it. Its just figuring that out when I can transfer it on certain counts, maybe take bigger swings. But Im just going to try to be the player that I am right now and see how that works out.