How a gathering with Orioles coaches helped unlock Jorge Mateo’s swing — and a deeper lineup


A month in the past, Jorge Mateo won’t have even reached the pitch. It has been the system towards him for a while — intention low and out of doors with breaking balls, and the Orioles shortstop would open his stride and miss.

But within the second inning Friday night time at Tropicana Field, Mateo’s stride remained sq. with the plate, and he poked the low-and-away curveball from Tampa Bay Rays starter Corey Kluber into shallow proper subject for a bloop RBI double. It’s the form of swing that’s now going Mateo’s method ever since he met with supervisor Brandon Hyde and co-hitting coaches Matt Borgschulte and Ryan Fuller after a sequence towards the Minnesota Twins throughout the first week of July.

“He was like, ‘We have to make an adjustment,’” Fuller recalled. And the adjustment got here within the type of batting apply periods filled with sliders away, practising in bulk towards the pitch that has given him essentially the most hassle. To that time, Mateo’s .173 batting common towards sliders was his lowest towards any pitch sort, per Statcast, and he whiffed on 36.9% of his swings towards that providing.

The heavy slider routine in batting apply has led to a breakout on the plate since early July, together with a career-high 5 hits Friday that led Baltimore to a 10-3 victory against the Rays. If Mateo can preserve it going — shedding pitches off the plate whereas reaching those he can hit — he unlocks a brand new stage for the Orioles’ lineup.

“Any time we get threats at the bottom of the order and make the lineup as deep as possible, that’s huge,” Hyde stated. “That’s been a huge boost for us the last couple months.”

From opening day via the tip of June, the most important drawback for Mateo was chasing these sliders. He had a 32.3% strikeout price throughout that stretch, a mark that made Fuller and Mateo cringe. That prompted Mateo’s insistence to discover a resolution at the beginning of July, and the outcomes have performed out on the sphere.

His first double Friday got here on that low-and-away breaking ball. The subsequent got here when Mateo turned on an inside sinker. He had initially been opening up his stance and stride to succeed in such pitches, however as Mateo adjusted his open stance to incorporate a sq. stride, his plate protection improved.

Since July 4, the day after Mateo met with the hitting coaches and Hyde to enhance his strategy, the 27-year-old’s strikeout price is right down to 21.6%. He hit .196 up till July 3. Since July 4, he’s hitting .308 with a .922 OPS.

“I’ve been working really hard at that,” Mateo stated via workforce interpreter Brandon Quinones. “I credit the hitting coaches with helping to put in the work with things like that, focusing on staying in the zone and focusing on shortening my swing a little bit.”

The greatest enchancment got here when Fuller and Borgschulte ran Mateo via blended rounds of batting apply, throwing two-seam fastballs in on his palms and sliders away at random. Mateo needed to react on the fly, as he does throughout video games. As Fuller watched Mateo steadily cut back his whiffs on outdoors sliders, he knew a breakthrough was coming.

“Those sliders that we could usually get him to swing on, he was in a good position to say no,” Fuller stated. “We were like, ‘Man, he was swinging at those, chasing those before.’ Those are really strong takes, setting himself up for the mistakes that he can hit.”

It’s turned Mateo, a nine-hole hitter, into one of many Orioles’ most harmful offensive threats, routinely sending the speedster crusing across the bases and leaving his helmet in his mud.

He laughed when requested why his batting helmet all the time flies off his head as he sprints from one bag to a different. He doesn’t know precisely. But “if it works, I take it,” Mateo stated with a smile.

And proper now, nearly all the pieces is working.



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