Mickey Moniak is breaking camp with the Phillies. It’s possible that he could be the starting center fielder on Opening Day with the righty Frankie Montas scheduled to pitch for Oakland.
That will depend on how his hand is feeling. He was hit-by-a-pitch during his last spring at-bat against the Rays on Wednesday. The Phillies, according to Matt Gelb of The Athletic, say that X-Rays were negative on Moniak’s right hand and that he has a bruise.
Moniak’s performance at the plate this spring can be attributed to a refreshed mental approach and a subtle change suggested by new Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long.
Long asked him to move closer to the plate and it has done wonders for Moniak, who has homered six times this spring.
Long was asked about Moniak and the changes the two made during the last Phillies spring training broadcast on Tuesday.
“He said ‘Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I was putting added pressure on myself.’ He said ‘My swing didn’t help, being way off the plate, diving in, crossing over, not giving myself the best opportunity to hit,’ but he said from the time we’ve moved him up on the plate to where he is right now, he said he feels amazing up there,” Long said. “He feels like he’s seeing the ball, feels like he’s freed up, and he said it just coincided with his confidence just going through the roof.”
Long told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he watched 10 hours worth of Moniak’s at-bats during the lockout. He liked what he saw and believed that a slight change could make him “really good and special.”
“I looked at all his swings and was like ‘This dude’s got a good swing. Why isn’t he doing better?’ From a mechanical standpoint, he did a lot of things right and a lot of things that I teach. But he was off the plate and he couldn’t cover the pitch, even middle-away he was having trouble staying tight on it and staying direct.
“I said ‘Are you scared of the ball? Listen, if you’re scared, we’ll get this figured out. We’ll get you some armor and try to figure this out.’ He goes ‘I’m not scared of the ball.’ I said ‘Then get up on the plate! Let’s fix it now’ and that’s how it happened.”
John Kruk went on to ask if there were any concerns about hitters moving closer to the plate and possibly opening up for inside pitches. Long said he was more concerned about the direction of Moniak’s stride and how his body moved completely towards left-center field.
“I was hoping by being on the plate that it would automatically take care of his stride direction and it did,” Long said. “So really, at the end of the day, it was probably the easiest fix that I’ve had in my 16 years in the big leagues. It really was. It’s kind of comical.”
Moniak did tell NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury that he has been told to move closer to the plate before by the Phillies, but it always came with a caveat.
“And I’m not saying I hadn’t heard it in the past. But it always came with something else,” Moniak told Salisbury. “It was always in the middle of the season and I was struggling a little bit and it was, ‘Hey, get up on the plate,’ and in my head, I was like, ‘That’s not it. That can’t be it.’ My swing at those times wasn’t feeling good and in my head, it wasn’t the fix.”
For months, Moniak was not expected to be a contributor on the Phillies. Dave Dombrowski told reporters in November that he wasn’t counting on Moniak to be on the active roster at the beginning of the season. Before Odúbel Herrera’s injury, Joe Girardi insisted that Moniak wasn’t in the running to be a starter in center field.
Moniak still needs to make some improvements if he wants regular playing time in the big leagues. He has no walks in 35 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League. His hot streak won’t last forever and while his aggressiveness early in counts has paid off, there will be instances in which he needs to lay off on pitches outside the zone and work walks.
Nonetheless, Moniak has earned his way onto the roster.
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