Making swing changes on the fly vs. big-league pitching tough task for Tigers' Short

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Toronto – Nobody had to tell Zack Short he needed to change something. You get seven hits over four weeks and strikeout 30 times, every third at-bat — you know you better fix something pronto.

“I mean, I couldn’t even draw a walk,” Short said before the game Saturday. “I was swinging at everything. First time in the big leagues and trying to hit your way out of it as opposed to sticking to your same approach, seeing pitches and get in your zone.

“Man, I was swinging at the rosin bag. If you threw it to me, I’d have swung at it.”

The Tigers' Zack Short

And the way things were going, he’d either have missed it or popped it up. His swing had gotten long and loopy and the harder he pressed, the worse it got. He was sent back to Triple-A Toledo to clear his head and that lasted just two days. Niko Goodrum was injured again and Short's decompression time was over.

Still, in those two days, he started the process of adjusting his posture at the plate. Trying to find a way to take a more direct path to the baseball and keep his bat in the strike zone longer.

“Just trying to home in on being more level, more on top, whatever you want to call it,” Short said. “It’s nice to see some results, even though it’s not resulting in hits for the most part. But the flight of ball is better (off the bat), even in batting practice. It’s rewarding to work on something like this during the season at the highest level and see some positive results.

“But I have a long way to go.”

Short homered on Thursday and hit the ball on a line twice Friday — he singled in the eighth and scored the tying run.

“I do like that he’s made some subtle adjustments in how he positions his upper body and what he’s trying to do with the ball,” manger AJ Hinch said. “He’s still elevating the ball well and not overextending himself to do it.”

Short stands more erect in the box and he holds hands a little higher with both elbows extended. His swing is more of a puncher's motion as he throws his hands at the ball.

“You don’t want to be too pushy at it,” Short said of his swing path to the ball. “I’m always going to have that little loop to it. But if I can be more in the (strike) zone and on plane with it, as opposed to being underneath it, there will be a lot more room for error.”

Short has watched a ton of video. He’s watched Bo Bichette, Alex Bregman and other hitters built similarly to himself, just looking for keys and clues.

“Watch all the great hitters, they are in the zone from the catcher’s glove to basically out in front of the plate like five feet or so,” Short said. “It’s all about leaving room for error and hitting the ball line to line.”

Short, who has 12 home runs between Toledo and Detroit this season, has always tried to get the bat head out front and launch balls. He's never been one to let balls get deep on him.

“I’ve always been skittish about being on top because if you get too on top you can cut the ball and pop it up even higher,” Short said. “It’s a fine line to be too direct or too underneath. I’m trying to find that middle ground.”

Normally, adjustments like this are best done in the off-season, or in the minor leagues. Doing it in real time against big-league pitching, it doesn’t get any tougher than that. Short, though, fighting to carve out his niche at this level, doesn’t have the luxury of waiting.  

“The last two at-bats Friday night I kind of got out of it and got just a little too big," he said. "Coolie and Hess (hitting coaches Scott Coolbaugh and Mike Hessman) noticed it right away and we attacked it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s the big leagues and you’re doing it on this stage with everybody watching going, ‘Man, he’s terrible. He can’t hit.’

“But trying to change a swing at this level is freakin’ hard.”

Twitter @cmccosky