SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — This time last year, Giants outfielder Roger Kieschnick thought he had it pretty good, what with a plush spot in the Texas Tech lineup and fairly smooth, 12-hour course load.
Walking across the Lubbock, Texas, campus back then, he naturally had a bounce in his step. Except, that is, when it came time to head to the chemistry building for a Biology of Animals class.
“That was not a good one for me,” Kieschnick said Monday, sheepish grin and all. “I squeezed that one out. It was a long, long walk to that building.”
Life is much better these days for Kieschnick, the Giants 2008 third-round pick who hit well enough in Hawaii Winter Baseball last fall that he’s likely headed next to high Class A San Jose.
The only difference is that the lefthanded slugger will do so with a new stance and modified location when holding the bat.
Where he was much more closed with his front foot and held his hands higher, Kieshnick now has a slightly open stance—his feet not much apart—and his hands rest just around the lettering emblazoned on his uniform before he loads.
“I wasn’t in a good position before,” Kieschnick said. “It seemed like I had a different swing every game. So I’ve been working on it in the cage.”
The stance would be best described as unassuming had, say, a middle infielder/slap hitter suddenly employed it.
But it could be lethal this summer as Kieschnick, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound outfielder roams the hitters’ paradise that is the California League, where the stance could fool pitchers before he unloads his typical fury.
The change came about last fall as Kieshnick worked with Ronnie Ortegon, the Reds’ hitting coordinator and a Hawaii Winter Baseball assistant.
It also came on the heels of a not bad, not great season at Tech, here he hit .305/.407/.632 with 17 home runs and 65 RBIs in 220 at-bats. He drew 35 walks and struck out 42 times, but scouts spotted holes in his swing, with Kieshnick slumping from possible first-round status to the third round.
“I started messing around with different stuff last fall,” Kieschnick said. “I’m now pretty much looking to get in a good position to be a good hitter. In college, I was closed off. My front foot was always out in front of my back foot. But this keeps me more on the ball, especially the inside pitch.”
The change has been embraced by the Giants, who enthusiastically talk about Kieschnick’s power.
“He hits the ball as hard as anybody,” Giants field coordinator Shane Turner said. “The ball sounds different coming off his bat.”
Because this will be Kieshnick’s first full season and Kieshnick likes to hit a ton in batting practice, they are stressing that he self-monitor his swings in afternoon drills and in the cage, especially when the schedule moves deeper into the season.
“He’s a strong kid and a very hard worker,” Turner said. “But he’s not used to a 140 or 162-game schedule, and that’s something our coaches have to monitor as well. I think he will (understand it). You find guys who like to hit like to hit A LOT. And those are guys you have to say, ‘Let’s move out of the cage.’ But that’s a good thing.”
Kieschnick is well aware of limiting his cage work as the season moves along in an effort to keep from getting fatigued.
“You can take too many swings,” he said. “You definitely want to get your hacks in, but you have to be careful. I will get done what I need to get done and then get out of there.”
Tuner also is confident that Kieschnick can handle skipping low Class A and going straight to the California League.
“He’s going to have to make adjustments to how he’s being pitched. The Cal League is a good league,” Turner said. “But I think it’s important with guys with ability that you challenge them. And he has shown this spring that he can handle the challenge.”