Tampa — Josh Donaldson hit his first game for the Yankees on Tuesday.
It was something he didn’t accomplish in his disappointing 2022 season in The Bronx, and it came during a Grapefruit League game at Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees are banking on more of this kind of performance during the regular season — and the adjustments he debuted on Tuesday could be key.
Donaldson and hitting coach Dillon Lawson admitted the 37-year-old had to adjust his style of play to become more consistent.
So far, that has resulted in a smoother swing — but both have also said Donaldson needs to preserve at least some of what has made him such a fearsome hitter for most of the past decade.
“It’s been a tough process this past year, trying to figure out what things are on the plate and how I need to move,” Donaldson said. “I’ve always moved on [during my swing]. I am a believer in moving in the batter’s box and have been successful at it for a long time. In the past year, I haven’t gotten my grip on it consistently.”
There was a bit of a leg kick on Tuesday, which made for a more fluid swing the Yankees hope will allow Donaldson to get to the ball faster.
“There’s still movement and he still has rhythm,” Lawson said of the edits. “He still has all the building blocks that made him a hitter throughout his career. It’s not about changing who he is. It’s trying to make sure he can hit certain areas more consistently.”
Part of this evolution is getting used to the pitch clock and the different ways in which pitchers will try to take advantage of the new rules, such as using a fast wide.
Donaldson, who is expected to play again on Friday for the first time since his two-legged bout, again declined to go into too much detail about his new swing, citing “keep it simple”.
“I think if you look at what he did in other stages of his career before he got here, some of the moves that felt big to him weren’t that big,” Lawson said. “But time goes by and maybe the action has gotten bigger or other parts of your swing have changed and now you may be on time, but you’re in a different position and that’s throwing your batters. We’re trying to keep things simple and succinct without it being lost on who the hitter is,” he said.
A Nationals scout who has watched Donaldson several times this spring — including on Tuesday — said his new swing looks good, but noted that Donaldson has also shown signs of strength and consistency at times in the past year, but hasn’t been able to sustain it. .
Donaldson is well aware of this fact.
And it brought him back to something he dealt with during the early stages of his career, when he was moved back into the minors after starting the season in Oakland in 2012.
He returned to the majors the following season and finished fourth in AL MVP voting.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve had to find out,” Donaldson said. “So it’s not something I’m not familiar with, it’s been a while. I went back to the drawing board and made an honest assessment with myself of where I am. It’s in my DNA. I won’t stop until I figure it out.”
“He doesn’t take any of this seriously,” said Lawson. “It could have rolled last year when it didn’t come together. But it worked his ass off since he was here. Last year, it didn’t work, but the work he did, it has to come together. There’s no way it won’t.”
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