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Sam Travis Strives To Hit More Fly Balls

Ever since first baseman Sam Travis signed as a 2014 second-round pick out of Indiana, the refrain was consistent: He hit the ball very hard, and if he ever learned how to do so with loft, the righthanded hitter had the potential to do plenty of damage.

But in his first three pro seasons, Travis never hit more than nine homers, raising questions about whether he would ever deliver the production to be a regular big league corner bat.

In retrospect, Travis acknowledges, he relied too much on his hands to produce a direct path to the ball. The result was a lot of contact--but often on soft ground balls.

"I was being all herky-jerky and all over the place,” said Travis, 24. "That’s not going to work.”

This offseason, however, new Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers sought out Travis in hopes of setting in motion changes to help unlock more extra-base production. Hyers and Travis watched video of Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Edgar Martinez in an effort to identify traits that might allow Travis to translate his strong hand-eye coordination and bat speed into more in-game power.

Travis now is focused on using his legs to swing on the plane of the baseball and drive it in the air. He is also trying to remain more upright and balanced in order to hit the ball with consistently greater force.

"I’ve always been able to hit," Travis said, "(but) I’ve always been one of those guys where home runs are accidents. I try to hit the ball hard and see what happens."

"(Now) I’m still trying to hit the ball hard--just in the air--and see what happens. I’m focusing on the bottom half of the baseball, staying in my legs, staying balanced, and trusting my hands.”

Travis blasted six homers in spring training to lead the Red Sox. After he shuttled between Triple-A Pawtucket and the big leagues in 2017, he’ll open the year back at Pawtucket, where he’ll spend time both at first base and in left field, while representing the team’s likely first callup should a need for a righthanded bat arise.

"I’m extremely excited. I feel really strong, really explosive,” Travis said. "I’m ready to go.”

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>> Righthander Tanner Houck, who primarily used a two-seam fastball at Missouri, has added a four-seamer that often ran from 95-97 mph in spring training. The 2017 first-rounder will open at high Class A Salem.

>> Catcher Roldani Baldwin, who hit .274/.310/.489 with 14 homers in 95 games at low Class A Greenville last year, suffered a spring training thumb injury that will keep him out for the first few weeks of the season.

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