Schneider aims to capitalize on tweaks
Mets catcher hopes to improve hitting after change in stance
MIAMI -- Brian Schneider is known more for his adeptness in calling games and throwing out runners than for swinging the bat. The Mets, eager to improve their defense, fully realized that when they traded for the catcher last November.
Yet at 31, Schneider is optimistic that a change in his batting stance will make him more of an offensive threat.
Hitters have long known that sometimes big hitting improvement can come from subtle, small changes. Schneider adjusted his back foot inward and opened his stance a little after a conversation on hitting this spring with center fielder Carlos Beltran.
"I've been working on it," Schneider said. "It's all about the setup. Once I get set up in there [the batter's box], I feel good. I don't have to think about it any more. I believe it's helping me."
Beltran said Schneider has been swinging the bat well, but the center fielder did not want to take any credit should the catcher turn out to hit above his .253 career Major League batting average this season.
"He is the one who is doing the work," Beltran said. "I just shared with him what I do. He has been putting it into practice. It does seem like it's working for him."
Beltran added, "I'm a big believer in using the lower half rather than the upper body. When you use your legs, you have more opportunities to hit the ball hard and you're going to create more power."
Schneider went hitless in his debut as a Met, despite lining out to first base and hitting two balls to the warning track, but came back Tuesday night for a 3-for-4 game.
Nevertheless, he was still irritated Wednesday about leaving a runner at third base on the lineout to Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs on Monday.
"Jeez, with a runner at third like that," he said, "it seems like you could break a bat and throw the ball far enough into the outfield to score the run."
Schneider hit just .235 last season for the Washington Nationals in 124 games, but he demonstrated a discerning eye. Of the 33 Major League catchers who played at least 80 games, he was one of only two who had as many walks (56) as strikeouts (56). Minnesota's Joe Mauer was the other.
New Mets right fielder Ryan Church, who played with Schneider for most of the last three seasons, said he has noticed how enthused Schneider is about the changes.
"Now he has an idea of how to set up at the plate, and that's only going to make him a better hitter," Church said. "A lot of hitting is about knowing your swing."
Schneider understands it is a long season, one requiring endurance as much as anything, so he doesn't want to speak prematurely about being a better hitter. He'd rather the results speak for themselves.
Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.